Dubai and Abu Dhabi now require you to declare prescription medication.

I was reading another travel blog this evening and one of their articles was about a new law that Dubai and Abu Dhabi have instituted.  Essentially, all travellers need to fill in an electronic form if they want to carry any kind of prescription medication with them when entering to either country.

This news article summarises the requirement.

The detail of the new law is here and the list of drugs which are controlled with special conditions is here.  The form to register is here.

So why am I bothered?  Well this worries me on a whole host of levels, not least it makes it far easier to use this as a proxy to discriminate against the LGBT+ community.

I take PrEP.  For those that don’t know what PrEP is, the awesome iwantprepnow.co.uk website describes it like this:

  • PrEP is a pill you can take to protect you from HIV. It is extremely effective when taken properly.
  • If you take PrEP correctly, you don’t need to worry about a sexual partner’s HIV status.
  • You’re protecting your own HIV negative status by taking PrEP.
  • PrEP stands for pre-exposure prophylaxis.

The NHS in England now has a trial which means that I can obtain the medication legitimately on the NHS, and thus have a prescription for it.  However for a number of years before it was available on the NHS, I had to buy it online without a prescription.  It’s also still not widely available to everyone who needs it, and so a lot still do buy online.

The two drugs contained within PrEP are Emtricitabine and Tenofovir (with the brand name of Truvada) are actually the same drugs used in a lot of treatments for people that are HIV positive.

So let’s recap here.  To enter the UAE now, I need to declare my prescription medication.  That means declaring I take Truvada.  That means telling the authorities there that I’m either HIV+ or I’m likely to be a gay man.

If I’m the former, then I’m likely to be denied entry or deported.  If it’s the latter, then I can be imprisoned.

See where I’m going here?

This may all be a storm in a tea cup.  But either way it’s deeply worrying.  With advances in treatment and prevention, a lot of countries are doing their best to roll back some of the stigma that people may feel around being HIV+.  PrEP has dramatically reduced new infections in high-risk communities such as men who have sex with other men as well as making relationships for people who are serodiscordant easier.

I recently wrote about the fact that I’ve got no desire to go and visit Saudi (not least with the current issues).  Perhaps I should be crossing off the entire region from list?

5 comments

  1. I’m HIV+ and on treatment (Truvada being one of my meds). It never crossed my mind that this could leave me exposed to risk when I had a layover in the Middle East recently. Do you think I need to worry about connecting through Qatar in the future?

    1. Another friend just PM’d me to ask about connecting through the UAE as well. The shorts answer is I don’t know. I didn’t want to give incorrect advice by saying it’s fine/not fine. Perhaps one for the FCO?

      1. Fair enough! Definitely worth checking. I’ll let you know what I find out from FCO.

  2. Me personally I just avoid the entire region. 🤗 why would I go to such regressive and dangerous places where I can be on risk ?

  3. Thanks for the update, but really I‘m not sure why you are so surprised 😉
    Beyond being a gay man, I simply believe that their positions regarding human rights in general are simply not ones I want to fund in any way.
    For this reason, even though I fly a lot (Sen at LH), I never ever have even considered flying with one of the gulf airlines. Whatever their ratings or prices are, my values simply push me to not use their airlines or even plan on going there. People, there are many other airlines and places to visit. No need to go there really….

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