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YEMEN: New law to guarantee rights of people living with HIV

Photo: Mohammed al-Jabri/IRIN
The draft law guarantees the right of HIV-positive children to attend school and incorporates AIDS education into the school curriculum
SANAA, 27 June 2008 (PlusNews) - A Yemeni non-governmental organisation, made up of members of parliament, has prepared a draft law aimed at guaranteeing the rights of people living with HIV and preventing the spread of the virus. If approved, Yemen would be the third Middle Eastern state to pass such a law, after Djibouti and Sudan.

"People's rights are guaranteed in the constitution but we want to reinforce them through a specific law," said Abdul-Bari Dughaish, chairman of Parliamentarians to Prevent HIV/AIDS, which drafted the law.

He told IRIN/PlusNews that the proposed law also aimed to reduce stigma directed at people living with the virus and to guarantee their right to lead normal lives by prohibiting discrimination against HIV-positive people seeking accommodation and services.

It would also outlaw the dismissal of workers based on their HIV status. HIV-positive people risked being fired from their jobs and their children dismissed from school, because contracting the virus was sometimes viewed as a punishment from God, he commented.

Dughaish cited the example of a Yemeni man with kidney disease who travelled to another state on the Arabian Peninsula for treatment. "When doctors discovered he was living with HIV, they refused to treat him," he said.

The eventual goal was for people with HIV to be treated in the same way as people with other chronic health conditions. "Those living with HIV can lead as normal lives as diabetics or hepatitis patients," he said.

"A public employee living with HIV should get fully paid sick leave until his health condition is stabilised, but if medical tests prove he cannot continue working, he should be granted leave with full salary until he retires on pension," states the draft legislation.

Under the proposed law, a child living with the virus would have the right to education and could not be excluded from school; people with HIV would get free medical care at public health facilities, as well as free psychological and social care; those whose rights had been violated would have access to legal advice and help in pursuing legal action. Medicines and medical equipment used to combat HIV/AIDS would be free of taxes and customs duties.

Dughaish said the draft law would also commit the Ministry of Health to educating people about HIV and how to prevent it, and to adding information about HIV and AIDS to Yemen's school curriculum. "We want to tell people that anyone can be HIV-positive. It is not only associated with sexual transmission," he said.

There are about 2,400 registered cases of HIV/AIDS in Yemen, but studies suggest that for every reported case, 20 to 30 go unreported.

The draft law also makes provision for a government fund to be established to support HIV-positive people and their families, and for the state to seek assistance from the private sector and international donors to accomplish all the goals set out in the proposed legislation.

maj/ar/ks/he

Theme(s): Care/Treatment - PlusNews, Economy/Business - PlusNews, HIV/AIDS (PlusNews),

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

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