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Plus News: HIV-positive people battle health service discrimination

The healthcare sector was consistently identified by people living with HIV as a major source of stigma and discrimination
01.09.11 | Interesting article at Plus News

The last time Mustafa Abdel Rahman, an Egyptian living with HIV, visited a hospital in Cairo, he was treated so shoddily by the medical personnel that eight years on he refuses to go back.

During the three months Abdel Rahman spent in hospital in 2003, the doctor never came into his room; he sent a nurse in once a day to give him his medication. Throughout his stay his room was never cleaned, forcing him to clean it himself, and when his temperature rose dramatically one night and he went to a doctor's office for help, he was thrown out and ordered never to leave his room.

"I saw for myself how people like me are detested, held in contempt, and given the severest psychological pain," Abdel Rahman, a lawyer, told IRIN/PlusNews. "Our medical workers do not just understand that people living with HIV and AIDS are human beings too."

According to a 2011 report on HIV-related stigma in Egypt, the healthcare sector was consistently identified by people living with HIV as a major source of stigma and discrimination. A study quoted in the report found that denial of care, breach of confidentiality, non-consensual testing, poor quality of care, gossip and blame were all frequent features of Egypt's healthcare setting. Many of the 11,000 Egyptians living with HIV would rather suffer minor health problems than attempt to obtain health care.

"HIV/AIDS related stigma and discrimination are the most serious challenges to putting the lid on infections in this country," said Ahmed Awadallah, the manager of the youth reproductive and sexual health programme at local NGO the Family Planning and Development Association. "This trend must change because it has its own adverse effects."

Amany Masoud, deputy director of the Right to Health Programme at local NGO the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, told IRIN/PlusNews she knew of a pregnant HIV-positive woman who was denied permission to give birth in many of the country's main hospitals before eventually being offered a room specially for HIV-positive people at a hospital in Cairo.