NSHR floats AIDS patients’ bill of rights in Saudi Arabia


NSHR President Bandar Al-Hajjar said that the recommendations are the result of workshops and meetings with HIV-positive Saudis and their doctors. High on the list of concerns are job discrimination and the patients’ right to privacy when receiving AIDS treatment.

“We held two workshops: one at the society’s head office in Riyadh and the other at King Faisal Specialist Hospital,” said Al-Hajjar. “We determined that there must be a clear system that watches out for their rights as well as their obligations toward society.” The recommendations were posted on the NSHR website this week and the organization is hoping that members of society will provide feedback on the resolutions. A final draft will later be submitted to the Ministry of Health.

The Kingdom recently passed a mandatory premarital AIDS test for couples seeking marriage. The NSHR recommends that while hospitals should not reveal private medical information they should be able to inform the noninfected partner of a couple taking the premarital AIDS test. The NSHR also recommends that hospitals should inform the government and educational institutions about Saudi individuals found to be HIV positive.

In the case of educational institutions, the NSHR said the information about HIV -positive students would be used to take precautionary measures for departments teaching professions that pose a risk of transmitting the virus, such as dental hygiene or lab work.

Other recommendations include job protection for HIV-positive Saudis and ensuring that they not be expelled from educational institutions for having the fatal viral infection. The NSHR would like to see penalties of SR5,000 and up to three years in prison for those who discriminate against HIV-positive Saudis by firing them or kicking them out of schools. HIV-positive people found guilty of purposefully spreading the disease would face up to five years in prison under these guidelines.

The draft recommendations consist of 16 articles and include a call for a proactive approach by the government to ensure the just treatment of AIDS patients, awareness-raising campaigns that HIV-positive Saudis should be treated fairly and establishing a national AIDS center for collecting data on the prevalence of HIV in Saudi Arabia.

Al-Hajjar said that Saudis have major misconceptions about AIDS patients and that the HSHR has received numerous complaints from Saudis who have been fired because their employers found out about their condition. “These patients must continue to live their lives normally and receive proper treatment,” he said.

The study underscored the need to protect patients’ rights while at the same time balancing social concerns. Al-Hajjar said that addressing the concerns of HIV-positive Saudis is necessary to prevent them from becoming socially deviant and seeking vengeance by purposefully spreading the virus.

“They must not be excluded from the society or they may fire back as we have heard about in other countries,” he said.

And so Article 13 of the draft recommendation states that a Saudi with HIV must be guaranteed job security unless he or she has purposefully tried to spread the virus. If the nature of the job poses a health risk to others, then the patient must be moved to another position or, if that is not possible, should be laid off with a severance of two-thirds of the person’s annual wage.

Under NSHR recommendations, foreigners found to be HIV positive would be provided medical care while their deportation was being facilitated. Under current immigration law, all foreign legal residents must provide a blood test showing they are HIV negative.



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