Criminalisation and enforced testing of people suspected of being HIV positive in Egypt

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2008 National LGBT Conference
25 July 2008

This not only violates the most basic rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people and people living with HIV, it also threatens public health, by making it dangerous for anyone to seek information about HIV prevention or treatment.

The most recent arrests occurred after police followed up on information coerced from men already in detention, according to the Health and Human Rights Program of the Cairo-based Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR).

Two of the newly detained men tested positive for HIV. As in previous cases, authorities forced the new detainees to undergo HIV testing without their consent. All those testing positive have been held in Cairo hospitals, chained to their beds.

Other facts particular to Egypt underline a high magnitude of risk: up to 30% of married women in remote rural areas have sexually transmitted infections. Data on condom use rate among married women using contraceptives reflect a decline. In addition, Egypt has high levels of Hepatitis C, a virus with similar modes of transmission to HIV.

There is also evidence of high-risk behaviour, such as needle sharing and unprotected sexual relations among injecting drug users. At particular risk are up to 1 million street children in Cairo and Alexandria who are often subjected to violence and sexual exploitation.

The high level of stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV is an important reason for the limited number of people undergoing voluntary testing. This is especially the case for high-risk groups such as sex workers, intravenous drug users and men having sex with men.

The absence of information and knowledge on sexually transmitted diseases and HIV/AIDS, together with the lack of counselling and guidance at schools and within the family and the health system, put young people at particular risk.

Conference calls upon the National LGBT Committee to work with Amnesty and through the Trades Union Congress and International Lesbian and Gay Association Europe to raise the issue within the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) to put pressure on the Egyptian authorities and to publicise the behaviour of the Egyptian authorities through UNISON Communications to alert members of the actions of a country where many UNISON members would be spending holidays.