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'HIV inmates should be in separate cells': Oman lawyer

Former judge turned lawyer appeals for segregation of prisoners

Gulf News

Muscat: A former Omani judge turned lawyer has alleged that one of his clients was kept in a jail cell with an HIV-infected inmate.

Qais Al Qasimi tweeted this about his client on the micro-blogging site Twitter. The former judge appealed to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to intervene and make sure that those in detention are not kept in the same jail cell as HIV-infected inmates.

Majidah Bint Shekhan Bin Majid Al Maamari, a member of the NHRC, responded to Al Qasimi’s tweet and the lawyer thanked her for her prompt response.

Ahmad Al Rashdi, Director at the Department of Monitoring at the NHRC, told Arabic news portal Al Balad that the commission would look into the matter and after proper investigation will ask relevant authorities to separate HIV-infected detainees from the other inmates.

According to sources, prisoners with HIV/AIDS at the high-security central prison in Sumayil are kept in a separate cell.

“It is not necessary to segregate HIV-infected prisoners,” said a doctor who wished to remain anonymous.

Some drug addicts and other detainees often claim that they are HIV infected to avoid harsh treatment in the cells. “There have been cases where inmates have falsely claimed being infected with HIV virus,” a source said.

In Oman, HIV-infected people are often ostracised and the infection is seen as taboo. According to an activist who works in the field of treating HIV-infected (Aids) patients, some families even shun relatives with infection and keep them in outhouses built for servants.

The infected people suffer even more because of constant taunts hurled at them for contracting the dreaded infection.

According to Health Ministry statistics, 1,455 Omanis were reported to have contracted the HIV infection.

If any expatriate tests positive for HIV/Aids then he or she is repatriated immediately. In the last wave of deportations, Oman repatriated 153 expatriates who tested positive for HIV/Aids, including an illegal Asian female.