Font Size

- Aa +

Tue 6 May 2008 04:00 AM

Font Size

- Aa +

Global groups slam hep C ban

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has been singled out for condemnation by global health organisations following the news that the hepatitis c virus (HCV) has been added to the country's list of deportable diseases.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has been singled out for condemnation by global health organisations following the news that the hepatitis c virus (HCV) has been added to the country's list of deportable diseases.

A Ministry of Health circular, which was leaked to the press last month, said that visa applications and renewals would now include a screen for HCV. Existing residents will face deportation if they test positively for the virus.

The news comes three weeks before the inaugural World Hepatitis Day.

Charles Gore, president of the World Hepatitis Alliance, called the decision "incredibly disappointing.

He said: "I find it particularly surprising weeks before the first World Hepatitis Day, which focuses on how global a problem this is. The notion of exporting the disease does not quite fit in.

The Australian Hepatitis Association told Medical Times it was "disappointed" at the UAE government's decision.

Dr Zainab Khazaal, director of preventive medicine for the Health Authority Abu Dhabi (HA-AD) defended the government's resolution, declaring the matter a "question of health economics." She said: "The UAE and other GCC countries take these measures to protect their population.

The move is intended to force countries to screen migrant workers for HCV before they arrive in the UAE, Khazaal said.

"If we can make them enforce this, as a preliminary recruitment process...then that should reduce the rate.

Asia's high prevalence of HCV means the decision is likely to affect a high number of UAE residents. But Gore suggested the "unethical" move is equally likely to hamper the UAE's attempts at establishing a globally competitive health service.

"A world-class health system is not just a delivery of services and the latest equipment. It's also about ethics," he said, adding that, with travel, diseases can no longer be viewed in terms of single country health.

"I think other countries will feel far less inclined to cooperate with the UAE if they are going to have this mentality regarding diseases. No single country is an island any more and it is a very unfortunate way to deal with a health problem.

"You can't just wish the problem away, except for in the very short-term.

HCV is a major cause of acute hepatitis and chronic liver disease, including cirrhosis and liver cancer. According to the World Health Organisation, an estimated 170 million persons are chronically infected with HCV worldwide, and 3 to 4 million persons are newly infected each year.

For all the latest health tips & news from the UAE and Gulf countries, follow us on Twitter and Linkedin, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube page, which is updated daily.