Special report: Emirati man with HIV held for more than a decade at health facility

Naser Al Mazrouei has been kept at a facility in Baniyas for 13 years because he has HIV. His family refuses to sign documents allowing his release.

Nasser Al Mazrouei, 34, has been living in government care since contracting HIV at the age of 18. For the past three years he has been confined to a Baniyas clinic. Courtesy Nasser Al Mazrouei
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ABU DHABI // An Emirati man with HIV has been waiting 16 years to be released from government care because his family won’t give their consent.

Nasser Al Mazrouei, 34, contracted the virus in 1999 at the age of 18 and has lived in government clinics since.

Three years ago he moved to a new facility – a clinic in Baniyas which has security fencing and two guards stationed outside.

A UAE law says nationals with HIV should not be detained. A 2010 law says “authorities shall provide the social, financial and spiritual support to the person living with HIV/Aids and his or her family, in a way that guarantees them a decent life and that they are not isolated from the society”.

The centre, however, stipulates that a family member must consent to Mr Al Mazrouei’s release.

“I’m a grown man; why does anyone have to consent for my release?” he said.

“Why don’t they just allow me to leave? I’ll mind my own business and see to my life.”

Mr Al Mazrouei is not allowed to leave the clinic unsupervised. He said he had to attend his father’s funeral in handcuffs, accompanied by security guards.

He can visit the local supermarket only with a security guard. He is allowed visitors, but a reporter from The National was not allowed to meet him last month.

“My family don’t want me. They left me here when I was first brought in and refused to take me in,” said Mr Al Mazrouei.

“My father was asked to claim me, but he just left me here and no one came. He told the guards that he didn’t want to speak to me and asked them to keep holding me. I tried to speak to him but he refused.”

A source at the centre said: “Every officer knows of Nasser’s case and everyone feels sorry for him. We have pleaded with his family to come and take him from here, but they have refused.

“His father insisted that Nasser does not leave the facility, and now his brothers want to keep him in.”

Mr Al Mazrouei is one of nine siblings, and his family lives less than a block away. “They hardly ever visit and if they do then it’s maybe once or a maximum twice a year,” he said. “My mother told me to call her every few months and not to bother her too much.”

He has access to a computer and a mobile phone, but has received no education since dropping out of high school.

“I do sometimes wish I was in prison,” he said. “At least there they get a chance to continue their education.”

He receives government assistance from Social Services, but said his mother had promised to release him.

“She told me a few months ago that she would come and take me out of here, but all I get are promises,” he said. “All I want is to get out. I won’t bother anyone or visit them if that’s what they want. Who will compensate me for my life that was wasted?”


About this package:

Despite increased awareness, stigma and a lack of statistics on patients infected with HIV persist in the UAE. People prefer to conceal their status, believing that treatment in the UAE would expose them, say experts.

A lack of support for patients is a concern for a 45-year-old Emirati with HIV, who believes there should also be a “matchmaking” programme for people in his position.

According to a report by the Population Reference Bureau in coordination with the United Nations, Iran is one of the only regional countries to successfully introduce Positive Clubs for people with the disease.

Meanwhile an Emirati man with HIV has been waiting 16 years to be released from government care because his family won’t give their consent and despite UAE law saying nationals with HIV should not be detained.