Sunday, July 20, 2008

AIDS, anyone?

So I'm back at work after a blissful holiday. The first time off I have had since the start of my pregnancy.

And I'm back to blogging after an even longer siesta.. Could my husband's threats to remove my name from the blog altogether have had anything to do with it? Perhaps...

I thought long and hard about what my comeback topic would be, and I have a million and one things I would like to discuss, but now that I'm actually typing ,I can't seem to stick to a single, comprehensive topic.

Staring across my desk I see the book I'm currently reading titled The Wisdom of Whores. Sounds sleazy ha? Its not actually. Its a book my husband bought me knowing I'd be hooked from page one. Its a book about by an HIV/AIDS epidemiologist named Elizabeth Pisani and her venture into the world of brothels, sex workers and injecting drug users. Its author tells us of a career in the UN at the very start of the AIDS epidemic. A time when researchers tried to make sense of numbers that represented something the rest of the world was in denial about.

Its a book that gets you thinking.

In the world of HIV/AIDS, Oman is considered low prevelance. We have under 1000 registered cases. The key word here is registered. Thats the number of people who have actually been tested and found to be positive or the number of people who have seeked medical attention. Multiply that number by 3 or 4 and you are more likely to get a clearer idea of the existing scenario.

All stats re HIV/AIDS in Oman are published. We are even one of few countries in the Middle East that have a National AIDS Strategy. Every year, on December 1st, the Ministry of Health celebrates (not sure if that is the correct term here) World Aids Day and distributes thousands of information leaflets on HIV/AIDS in a bid to raise awareness amongst the public.

Yet, your average joe does not speak about it. Taboo? Maybe.....

Food for thoughts: All GCC countries, do not allow HIV/AIDS positive ex-patriates to work in their countries. Medical tests are required prior to hiring and if you are found positive, you are deported. Human rights activists usually have a field day with this, however our governments are adamant and view this point as one of the preventative/control measures available to them.

What do you think?


Undercover Dragon said...

Nice post Mrs Muscati!

I have little problem with my annual free aids test one gets as part of life as an expat worker in Oman (note: they only test the employed one, not spouse).

I just wish they would also test all unaccompanied Omani males coming back from Thailand...

Um Faisal said...


Excellent point undercover dragon.

Unfortunately, in this little corner of the world, AIDS is still preceived to be a "western disease"..Something brought to us by the bad bad people from abroad. Hence the restrictions on all foreigners seeking employment and the blatant diregard for our own nationals and their own risky behavior.

Personally, I'm not a huge fan of the test. Why? Well for one I do not agree with it being the most effective mode of prevention. I can have AIDS but still test negative if I'm tested during my window period (which is the first few months after contracting the virus). Second, a positive person cannot pass on the virus by merely working with someone or sitting on the desk opposite them. I might support the test for workers in fields such as labs or hospitals or places that a positive person with a small cut can pass on contaminated blood, etc. That I can understand. But for all jobs? No.

I believe the best prevetion comes through raising awareness and educating people, esp young people, on how to protect themselves.

suonnoch said...

An HIV/Aids campaign was launched in Oman in December 2005 with support from Unicef. Hamed al Wahaibi was the Unicef goodwill ambassador and the Under-Secretary for Health Affairs took an Aids test to show there was nothing to fear. A telephone hotline manned by ten volunteers was initiated to answer calls from the public. What happened to that campaign?

JT said...

Of course it's not fair, but HIV tests are quite commonplace before starting work with large companies outside of Oman. To look at it from the employers' perspective, who would want to be saddled with the higher medical costs of supporting an employee with AIDS down the line, plus possible lawsuits and psychological messes from people who don't want to work with HIV carriers?

The Chasing Iamb said...


It's absolutely thrilling to have discovered your blog. I spent a few years in Muscat. MY parents lived in Oman for 20 years. My biggest complaint while living there was that Indians did not mix with people from any other community. we might as well have been living in India. I kept wondering what life was like for Omani teenagers.I wish I had known someone like you, then in the 90s to ask about politics and love and books and everything!

I would love to visit now, as an adult and perhaps I will save up and do it one day. I keep recommending it to people . I don't think a lot of people get how stunning Oman is. Practically anywhere you turn is an amazing view and nice people.


Please do keep posting.

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