Authorities warn of looming AIDS pandemic

The Health Ministry has warned of the spread of AIDS in the Maldives after an expatriate prostitute tested positive for HIV.

At a press conference yesterday, Dr Ahmed Jamsheed Mohamed, senior medical officer at the centre for community health and disease control, said prostitutes from neighbouring countries were working in the Maldives on tourist visas.

“We have some evidence now that expatriate women who came to the Maldives without a work permit on a tourist visa are involved in prostitution,” he said. “We learned that one of them was HIV positive.”

While the authorities required  medical checkups for expatriates who apply for work permits, he said, foreigners on tourist visas were not tested.

246 foreigners on work permits have been sent out of the country after testing positive since 1995, an average of 15 a day.

He added the authorities discovered the expatriate prostitute was HIV positive when she applied for a work permit.

Jamsheed said it was likely that there were more prostitutes with HIV who work at massage parlours and appealed to the public to be aware of the risks of visiting local brothels.

Prostitutes from China and Russia working in Sri Lanka often come to the Maldives when their tourist visa expires, he continued, while prostitutes in the Maldives visit Sri Lanka to re-enter the country on a new tourist visa.

“There’s a rotating group between Ceylon and Maldives,” he said. “We believe there must be a lot of HIV positive people among them.”

If AIDS begins to spread in the country, he added, there was no reason to believe it could be controlled.

Jamsheed said HIV in the Maldives was like a ticking time bomb: “Everything necessary for the disease to spread exists among us.”

A recent survey on AIDS revealed all the behavioural risks contributing to the spread of HIV, such as promiscuity, prostitution, homosexuality, rape, child abuse and sharing needles, were “widespread” in the country.

Jamsheed said responsibility had to be taken at an individual, societal and government level to avoid the country “reaching that critical stage”.

Although the survey was based on a small sample of the population, since its release one Maldivian had been found HIV positive and it was likely that more would be discovered. There are over 30 Maldivians with HIV, according to estimates said Dr Jamsheed.

Of the 14 people with AIDS known to the authorities ten have passed away, three are undergoing treatment while the others’ condition had not deteriorated to require treatment.

Asked whether recommendations in the study, such promoting the use of condoms and making clean disposal syringes available to drug addicts could be implemented in the Maldives, Jamsheed said both strategies have been successfully deployed overseas.

“The question is whether they can be brought in to our society with our Islamic principles and values,” he said, adding that the National AIDS Council had to discuss the issues.

Dr Ali Nazeem, in charge of treating HIV patients, said more voluntary counselling and testing centres (VTCs) would be established in the near future, while testing was already available in regional hospitals.

Testing is currently available at ADK hospital and the police VTC.

He added the centres will maintain anonymity and the test results would be confidential.

Earlier this week, drugs NGO Journey opened a VTC with more than 20 volunteers to offer counselling.


9 thoughts on “Authorities warn of looming AIDS pandemic”

  1. Since it is so clear what the behavioral factors are that are contributing to the spead of AIDs, what is actually being done to stop or minimize such behaviors and mitigate the risks associated with such factors? Its such a simple and nice comment to say we have VTCs and workshops etc but really, what I would really like to see is the current Government adopting an approach on all fronts that will really stop or minimize the behavioural risks identified in the article, starting with a really hard line and zero tolerance approach to DRUGS!!!

  2. If a hard line and zero tolerance approach to drugs is the solution to preventing drug abuse, how is it that the drug problem in the Maldives emerged within that context in the first place? History has proved over and over in almost every single country in the world that has taken such a stance that it does not work! The solution is educating people, and from there on it's up to the people to make the right choices. I do not believe it'd be possible to create a law or even a set of laws that can deter people from doing what they CHOOSE to do. It's only the people themselves who can control their own behaviours.

  3. I beg to differ, I don't know when there ever was a zero tolerance policy to Drugs in this country! Sure initially it was not as widespread a problem as it is today but it was still kept under wraps as a certain class of people were using it then! And while we cannot make a law to stop people from doing what they choose to do, we can certainly make laws (and it is the responsibility of the Government) to protect the rights of other people in this society! Its high time we start thinking about collective human rights rather than just individual! And if I am calling for a zero tolerance policy on crime and drugs now, it is because I have certainly had enough of our youngsters being wasted away on drugs, street fights and other crime. The longer we waste our time on so called "meetings" and "workshops" to find so called "solutions" to address these problems, the harder it is going to be to deal with this issue. It is already too late, so lets call upon the Government as a society to actually do something, instead of making excuses for them! There is a reason why the people select a Government, so why are we making excuses for them when they fail in doing what they are supposed to do!

  4. Okay, the government may not be doing ALL that it can at this point in time, but there definitely was a time when the Maldives had what I would call a zero tolerance approach to drugs - people being thrown in jail for possessing a small quantity of hash oil, for instance. My point is that such an approach would not work because incarceration HARDLY EVER leads to rehabilitation and reintegration of such people back into society. What creates better results is educating people from a young age and providing proper treatment for those who already are on drugs. I'm not making excuses for the government, what I'm saying is that a zero tolerance approach will not solve the problem from what I have seen so far.

  5. whyz everyone here fixating on drugs? im more worried about "promiscuity, prostitution, homosexuality, rape, child abuse" part (in this case).promiscuity especially with the negative attitude towards safe sex. there are drug addicts, and then there are sex addicts. we'd need some research to find the cause of increase in these behaviors in the guess is lack of awareness and suppression..and the double life we are pushed towards due to societal pressures.

  6. " be aware of the risks of visiting local brothels."

    “The question is whether they can be brought in to our society with our Islamic principles and values,”

    Can anybody make any sense out of this???

  7. How sad of you My Jamsheed, you cant even confidently give the exact number of HIV positive people in this country. This shows how behind you guys are in research and activity in finding and treating HIV positive people in the Maldives. A country which has around 'around 30' HIV people, you don't know how many are they exactly. Perhaps you can control it if you start providing free condoms in all the pharmacies in this country. Thats how Africa is dealing with it now and MAldives can have the same approach. For I know the government and the health staff in this country are incapable of doing anything else to stop HIV spreading.

  8. Attn: Hospital in charge, doctor, all staff & AIDS patient (please
    widely give it to your friend)

    Eating very peppery fresh chili after eating AIDS
    medicine one hour later can exert power of medicine up
    to many times without damaging
    human’s health

    I am the chairman of National promotion of Buddhism, vegetable food
    and prevention of cancer association. I have discovered that eating
    very peppery fresh chili after eating AIDS, swine flu and
    SARS, etc
    medicine one hour later can exert power of medicine up to many times
    without damaging
    human’s health. The amount of chili can be maximum but not excess.
    Our association address


Comments are closed.