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Globe and Mail Examines Saudi Arabia's Treatment of HIV-Positive Foreigners

August 10, 2005

Toronto's Globe and Mail on Monday reported that Saudi Arabian officials fail to provide antiretroviral treatment to HIV-positive foreigners and instead confine them to caged hospital rooms until they are deported or die. The Saudi Ministry of Health -- which views HIV/AIDS as an "imported phenomenon" -- in a 2004 report said the country's policy for HIV-positive foreigners is to treat them until they are stable enough for deportation, according to the Globe and Mail. However, one Saudi doctor speaking on the condition of anonymity said HIV-positive foreigners -- many of whom discover their status after undergoing mandatory HIV testing when being treated at a hospital following an automobile or workplace accident -- are treated like "prisoners, not patients." He added that the patients "get no medicine, no care, nothing" and many die while awaiting deportation. The length of time they remain confined at the hospital depends on their nationality, as some countries, such as the Philippines, are quick to return their nationals home, while those who come from countries "with little or no diplomatic presence in Saudi Arabia" have to wait much longer, the Globe and Mail reports. Foreigners make up 25% of Saudi Arabia's population and 54% of the country's HIV-positive population, according to the Globe and Mail. The government provides antiretroviral drugs -- which cost about $1,500 per month per person -- to HIV-positive Saudis, the Globe and Mail reports (MacKinnon, Globe and Mail, 8/9).

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