- Published on 13 December 2012
UAE is a high-income country with good medical infrastructure (United Arab Emirates MoH, 2012). However, the information available about drug use situation of the country is lacking. Three centers provide drug treatment services. Most of data about drug use comes from reports of National Rehabilitation Centre (NRC) in Abu Dhabi that provides detoxification and rehabilitation services (United Arab Emirates MoH, 2012). The center has reported that the number of clients is increasing (United Arab Emirates MoH, 2012). Heroin and prescription Opioids are the main drugs of abuse in patients treated for drug problems (UNODC, 2011). Injecting drug use represents a relatively small proportion of overall drug use (United Arab Emirates MoH, 2012).
HIV epidemic remains low in the country. UAE has no information about size, risk behaviors and HIV prevalence among MARPs (United Arab Emirates MoH, 2012). Few HIV cases are identified in PWIDs. All patients who enter drug treatment, either voluntarily or referred by the police are tested for HIV, Hepatitis B Virus (HBV) and HCV. At the NRC, only two HIV cases have been reported (United Arab Emirates MoH, 2012).
The AIDS National Strategic Plan was drafted in 2006-2007, but never endorsed. Recently, it has been considered for revision and update in the NASP in 2012 (United Arab Emirates MoH, 2012). The country has not yet received considerable technical assistance from UN agencies and other development partners for this purpose. There is a general weakness of national AIDS structure. There is no plan, inadequate commitment, inadequate human resources at the national and operational level, and a lack of accurate data. No active NGO structure is available for HIV prevention among MARPs. Stigma, discrimination and criminalization of MARPs are considerable. Nevertheless, an important achievement in 2010-2011 has been the official endorsement of a bylaw for the protection of the legal (health, employment, education) rights of PLHIV (United Arab Emirates MoH, 2012).
To date, very limited HIV prevention interventions have been implemented. Ninety-six percent of all HIV-related expenditure is allocated towards HIV screening, predominantly of expatriates in the context of residency permits. Three percent is spent on ART and care (United Arab Emirates MoH, 2012). VCT is not available in the country, but ART is widely available and non-citizens can also receive the treatment. There are no harm reduction interventions for PWIDs. However, country has recently reported that in NRC, eight patients are receiving Buprenorphine maintenance (United Arab Emirates MoH, 2012). Although there is no evidence for a significant HIV epidemic in the country, UAE remains susceptible to a rise in HIV incidence. In this context, providing technical assistance for development of the National AIDS Strategy is crucial. A multi-sectoral collaboration for strategy development might increase commitment in responsible bodies and provide a national support for program implementation.