Two HIV-positive individuals gunned down in Iraq

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Farid Abbas received a telephone call from someone who accused him of having an “indecent disease” and who told him Abbas would be killed “for the safety of the country.” Two days later, Abbas was gunned down in a drive-by shooting by a man who yelled at him: “Death to all people who carry diseases acquired from indecent methods against Islamic beliefs.” Abbas had been HIV-positive for nine years.

On July 30, Abbas’s wife, Hania Omar, also HIV-positive, left her house to pick up her eleven-year-old son from school. She, too, was the victim of a drive-by shooting. The killer dropped a letter which said “This is the price to pay for a Muslim woman who is willing to sleep with a dirty man whose blood is infected with the devil’s impurity.” Iraqi police, according to an IRIN report, wrote the deaths off as “sectarian violence.”

There were two other HIV-related murders in Iraq in the early part of 2006, and HIV-positive Iraqis report being shunned by their families and community.

Both Abbas and Omar had hemophilia and were infected by contaminated blood. The killers did not even realize that their victims had not engaged in any of the “indecent methods” scorned by Islam.

According to Reuters, the current situation is not much worse than when Saddam Hussein was in power and HIV-positive patients were virual prisoners in hospitals. Iraqis have not had much education about HIV and AIDS, and, according to the Iraqi Aid Association for Chronic Patients, still tend to believe that they can acquire the virus by merely touching patients or being nera them.

The Iraqi government tests all people coming into the country for HIV and has deported several people who tested positive. 73% of reported cases have been brought about by transfusions of contaminated blood, but one has to wonder how big a fear factor there is in reporting a case in which HIV infection occurred because of sexual contact or needle-sharing.

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