Mistreatment And Humiliation for HIV Patients in Yemen

Although Yemen has a relatively low prevalence of HIV patients, the treatment that HIV+ individuals are receiving in state-run and private hospitals might contribute to rising infection rates. This is illuminated in a recent report by Human Rights Watch. They chronicle how oftentimes those with HIV are refused even the most basic services.

Yemen, which is a conservative society, often treats diseases like HIV with contempt and fear. Although doctors and nurses are all trained in how to handle infectious blood and have access to the proper safety gear, there is a lack of understanding around the disease.

HRW highlights a number of cases, including women in labor, who are turned away, and patients who are in for non-related illnesses having their right to healthcare, privacy and dignity routinely violated:

On August 15, 2014, at the state-run Republican Hospital in Sanaa, a doctor refused to treat a patient suffering from seizures when she learned the patient was HIV-positive. In front of other patients and staff, the doctor shouted that the patient had HIV and ordered that she be removed from the hospital. The doctor also demanded that the patient’s husband be arrested for having withheld this information; hospital staff held him for 45 minutes before releasing him with the warning that he should “not cause any trouble in the future.”

Stigmatization is one of the most fatal components of HIV and often increases the virus’s prevalence, rather than diminishing it. Those who worry about being refused care or humiliated are less likely to seek out life saving ARVs and less likely to come forward or admit they have the disease. This is highlighted by a UNAIDS report on Yemen, which has shown a vast increase in the number of HIV infected patients.

The report also suggests that the number of HIV+ individuals goes largely unreported due to the stigma surrounding it. They estimate the actual number of HIV+ individuals at far higher rates than reported (232 reported/ 35,000 estimated).

Even further, the number of Yemenis polled who understand how to prevent HIV is incredibly low (around 6% for men and 5% for women). Female sex workers only employed condoms around 30% of the time, and the percentage of HIV+ adults and children undergoing antiretroviral therapy (ARVs) was at a staggeringly low 6%.

There is a profound irony here as with the widespread use of condoms and ARVs, we know exactly how to defeat HIV/AIDS. In a study last year, it was shown that those who participated in successful ARV therapy, with an undetectable viral load, had a very low risk of transmitting the virus to their partner or children. The paper employed six studies, and thousands of participants. It concluded that:

The researchers found a pooled transmission risk of 0.14 per 100 person years. In other words, if 1,000 serodiscordant couples [where one partner is infected with HIV and the other is not] in which the HIV-positive partner is on ARV therapy with an undetectable viral load had sex for one year, about one or two of the HIV-negative partners would become infected with the virus.

Although it is still possible for HIV+ individuals to go through periods of ‘viral spikes,’ so condom use should be employed to protect their partners, this is truly exciting news for couples around the world.

The study proves that when HIV is properly managed, it is no longer a death sentence. Those with the virus can lead long, normal fulfilling lives and easily protect their partner’s health.

Such facts make what’s happening in Yemen even more upsetting. With proper counseling and care, patients could manage their HIV. Rather, thanks to fear and repression, patients are being left to die. HRW is calling for the Yemeni government to step up and train their doctors and nurses to care for HIV+ individuals, or infection rates inside Yemen will likely continue to grow.

19 comments

Darren Woolsey
Darren W3 years ago

"On August 15, 2014, at the state-run Republican Hospital in Sanaa, a doctor refused to treat a patient suffering from seizures when she learned the patient was HIV-positive. In front of other patients and staff, the doctor shouted that the patient had HIV and ordered that she be removed from the hospital. The doctor also demanded that the patient’s husband be arrested for having withheld this information; hospital staff held him for 45 minutes before releasing him with the warning that he should “not cause any trouble in the future.”

So much for compassion.

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ERIKA SOMLAI
ERIKA S3 years ago

noted,thank you

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delilah st louis
delilah st louis3 years ago

Sad !!

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David B.
David B3 years ago

should we be surprised at that kind of treatment coming from a country , where all the guys go round in long white evening dresses ?

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Priscilla Laybolt
Priscilla L3 years ago

Such stupidity is born of ignorance. They should instead want to protect and lessen this disease in their country, helping their fellow men and women combat this disease, to provide healthy care for everyone.

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pam w.
pam w3 years ago

It wasn't always a ''bed of roses'' for AIDS patients here. What would you expect from a country in the grip of a primitive religion?

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M Quann
M Q3 years ago

So very sad.

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Birgit W.
Birgit W3 years ago

Heartbreaking!

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Ana MESNER
Ana MESNER3 years ago

Thank you for posting

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Sue H.
Sue H3 years ago

Shameful.

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