Health-BAHRAIN: Men Bring HIV Home

Published on IPS, by Suad Hamada, December 02, 2009.

MANAMA, Dec 2 (IPS) – Umbassil* is unlike other engaged women. Instead of planning her wedding she is wondering where she will have her baby. She is not pregnant but she knows that Bahrain’s maternity hospitals will not admit her because she is HIV positive.

The 26 year old who refuses to allow HIV to stop her from living her life to the fullest, is bothered by the prospect of being forced to deliver her baby in a country other than her own. 

“I have come to terms with artificial insemination and caesarean section (C-section) to protect my future husband and baby from contracting the virus, but I cannot accept (that I have) to deliver far away from my country and family members,” she told IPS.

Umbassil contracted the virus a few months ago from her previous fiancée who initiated unprotected sex. The two were married according to Muta’a or the temporary marriage custom prevalent in many Arab countries, which does not have legal sanction but is socially accepted …

… Her husband, a reformed drug addict who campaigns, like her, for Bahrain’s HIV/AIDS community in international fora, infected her.

“I’m an AIDS-fighting activist outside my country as there I feel free to fight for my right and defend HIV/AIDS patients. At home I have to put up with maltreatment and ignorance,” says Umali.

She says she is very close to her sisters “but they don’t eat anything I make or from my dishes for fear of infection,” she confides. “It hurts when the people dearest to you don’t accept a glass of water from you.”

Social prejudice is not the only problem for Shafiqa who got the virus from her late husband 14 years ago. The lack of sensitivity from people who should know better bothers her more, she says, giving the example of a laboratory where she goes for a blood test regularly.

“We have to check the level of the virus in our blood regularly, so many lab specialists refuse to take our blood because we are HIV/AIDS patients, although they are wearing gloves all the times,” she told IPS.

Shafiqa says that if medical professionals are unaware that HIV/AIDS patients are more at risk from infections contracted from so-called normal people because of their weak immune systems, how can ordinary people know any better.

The Bahrain government, through the National Programme of the Sexually Transmitted Diseases, is planning to draft a law to protect the rights of HIV/ AIDS patients, including women, and eliminate discrimination … (full text).

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