Arrests, Trials of Suspected HIV-Positive Men in Egypt Undermining Prevention Efforts, Violating Human Rights, Advocacy Groups Say
Recent arrests by Egyptian authorities of several people suspected to have HIV are undermining efforts to prevent the spread of the virus and violating human rights, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch said in a joint statement released on Friday, the AP/Minneapolis Star Tribune reports (Kratovac, AP/Minneapolis Star Tribune, 2/15).
HRW last month reported eight recent arrests and trials of men in Egypt. HRW documented the arrests beginning in October 2007, when two men were detained during an altercation in Cairo and taken to the so-called "Morality Police" after one man said that he was HIV-positive.
According to the organization, the two men said they were beaten, handcuffed to a desk for four days and subjected to forensic anal examinations after refusing to sign statements written for them by the authorities. Egyptian authorities also arrested two other men whose pictures and phone numbers were found on the first two detainees, as well as four additional men who moved into the apartment where one of the previous detainees had lived, the group said.
The first four men remain in detention with pending charges. All were subjected to HIV tests without their consent, HRW said. Two of the men, who allegedly tested HIV-positive, are in the hospital handcuffed to their hospital beds, according to HRW. All of the four men who lived in the apartment were convicted in mid-January of "habitual practice of debauchery" and sentenced to one year in jail, HRW said (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 2/8).
Egyptian police have denied arresting any men based on suspected HIV-positive status. However, one police official speaking on the condition of anonymity said that there is an effort to put people registered as HIV-positive in hospital records into treatment at "special clinics," the AP/Star Tribune reports. The official said that authorities recently detained four men and sent them to "precautionary hospital detention" for treatment, the AP/Star Tribune reports.
The arrests violate the "most basic rights of people living with HIV," Rebecca Schleifer of HRW said. They also threaten "public health by making it dangerous for anyone to seek information about HIV prevention or treatment," she added. HRW and Amnesty called on Egyptian authorities to release all 12 men, both the four convicted and the eight in detention. The rights groups also urged the Egyptian government to provide criminal-justice officials with information about medical facts and international human rights standards in relation to HIV/AIDS, as well as to immediately halt all forced HIV testing of detainees (AP/Minneapolis Star Tribune, 2/15).
The joint statement is available online.