Human rights abuse in the name of public health: HIV, ethics and Egypt
The fact that this is not the case globally was driven home by a recent report by Human Rights Watch. In Egypt, an HIV positive man -- or even a man suspected of being HIV positive -- is apparently in a far worse situation than their Canadian, American or Western European counterparts. Rather than being able to call on their government for protection, Egyptian authorities strictly enforce a national law against the 'habitual practice of debauchery', i.e. consensual sex between men. Or rather: they go beyond enforcement and towards state-sponsored sadism when it comes to suspected HIV positive gay men, chaining them to hospital beds and eventually jailing them because they are alleged to constitute a threat to public health, testing them for HIV without consent, and subjecting them to abusive and intrusive physical examinations.
Aggressive state action against homosexuals/HIV positive persons in Egypt is a fairly recent phenomenon, and requires an explanation. Hossam Bahgat ventured that the crackdown on gay men is motivated by a desire to (a) distract the public from the country's economic woes and (b) profile the government as a defender of 'Islamic values' (in order to counteract the growing Islamic opposition in the country) rather than a question of public health. There must have been something in those explanations, since Mr. Bahgat was fired from his position at the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights two days after he published them.