Travel To UAE

Qantas Responds To Concerns For HIV Positive Staff & Tourists Travelling To UAE

Today I received a copy of the following correspondence between Australian Senator Nick Xenophon and Qantas’ Olivia Wirth addressing concerns about problems for HIV positive staff and travellers with the new Qantas Emirates agreement that routes almost all European routes via UAE.

By “problems” I of course mean the potential arrest and deportation of HIV positive citizens within UAE.

08 April 2013
Senator Nick Xenophon
Senator for South Australia
Level 2, 31 Ebenezer Place Adelaide
South Australia
5000

Dear Senator,

Thank you for your correspondence of 26 March 2013 regarding HIV positive visitors to Dubai.

As we discussed when we met recently, our partnership with Emirates is a critical element in returning Qantas International to profitability and ensuring a sustainable future for the business.

Moving our international hub from Singapore to Dubai is a significant step in the process and as with any new port this can raise queries about cultural norms and local legal practices. We have been working with our staff on cultural training and other activity to make this process as smooth as possible. In the early days of our services to Dubai the feedback from cabin crew has been extremely favourable.

As we discussed, we have particularly been working with the FAAA and interested community groups so that concerns from HIV positive visitors to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are addressed.

The UAE requires screening for HIV status for work visas or permanent residency applications. Such information is also required in emigrating to Australia among other countries. There is no need for crew or visitors to Dubai to provide any information about their HIV status.

In relation to HIV positive crew or passengers we have confirmed that antiretroviral medicines are permitted to be brought into the UAE. We have also advised that in bringing medicines into the UAE (or other foreign jurisdictions) it is advisable to carry a prescription and letter from a doctor to support the carriage of that medicine.

I am advised that it is not our recommendation to crew that this letter should not disclose the visitor’s HIV status. Rather this letter need not disclose this information because the process relates to Customs (i.e. importing medicine into a foreign country) rather than for a medical purpose.

Qantas Medical Services has questioned multiple carriers who have been operating to and from the UAE for many years and there is no evidence of HIV positive crew suffering any adverse events.

For these reasons it is not necessary to limit flying for HIV positive crew into
Dubai.

Thank you again for writing to me.

OLIVIA WIRTH
Group Executive
Government and Corporate Affairs

As discussed in my previous post about HIV positive travellers in UAE, the concerns of arrest and deportation are very real and raise many question about customs and the importation of medicines to treat HIV. Falling sick while travelling in the UAE could also put a traveller in danger if they disclose their HIV status to medical staff . As noted at the USA Consular Affairs website:

U.S. citizens have been detained and deported for testing positive for HIV or hepatitis.

This is again confirmed in a Khaleej Times report that further states HIV and other communicable diseases are mandated to be reported to health regulators.

The notification of key communicable diseases like HIV/Aids, hepatitis B, TB and syphilis is mandated as per the health regulations in the UAE. Federal laws here stipulate that expatriates infected with these diseases, except syphilis, must be deported.

It is clear that persons looking to work, immigrate or stay in UAE longer then 3 months are required to have a HIV test after arrival and that a positive result for HIV, Hep B or C will have their visa’s rejected.

Visitors of UAE intending to stay less then 90 days do not have required medical examinations for entry visas. HIVTravel.org further says:

There are no health checks at the border, no health certificates must be presented on entry. Short term stays are therefore possible, however not free of risk. It is not allowed to import antiretroviral medication for personal use.

The list of medicines strictly regulated for import into the UAE is a 47 page document with restrictions on cold and flu tablets, strong analgesics, contraceptive devices and almost all psychiatric medications. To bring these medications into the UAE you require a script that has been authenticated by local diplomatic affairs and then approved by the UAE consulate.

One group of medications conspicuously left ouf of this list of restricted medications are HIV treatments.

This is a significant concern as it has been made very clear that HIV infection = deportation however HIV medicines have been left off the restricted medication list.

While I would like to be able to believe Olivia Wirth’s letter that assures safe travel for HIV positive people I can’t help but think this is a very grey area with the response of the UAE government yet to be fully clarified.

Ms Wirth’s comment about “not needing to mention” HIV status on travel documents leaves me uncomfortable for patients that may carry medicines only ever prescribed for the treatment of HIV.

Could this “omission” be considered deception and lead to further issues?

Currently this is very murky waters and despite Qantas’ cheery outlook I would advise very careful planning before heading to the UAE for a holiday or even a brief stop on the way to or from further destinations.

For those merely transitting Dubai airport there should be few issues however if there is need for overnight stay at a hotel could problems arise?

I would recommend proceeding with very well researched caution.

Yours in good health.

Dr George