Selective Medicals in Kuwait

Posted May 20/09

Dear ISR:

It is that time of the year again for me:  MEDICALS!!!! In Kuwait, yearly testing for HIV, TB, Malaria, Hepatitis B & C is required for only some nationalities, while others go only once and will only go again if they change their employer (sponsor).

Discrimination is practiced on a BIG scale here.  So if you do not hold a British or American passport, you will go for medicals yearly. The question is: AM I THE ONLY ONE IN KUWAIT ASSUMED TO HAVE AIDS, TB, MALARIA, HEPATITIS? Does my nationality determine whether I can contact these diseases?

The joke of it all is, since my stay in Kuwait, two British teachers tested positive for HIV when they arrived here after being appointed at my school.

At another school I was working at, couples are living together, not married, male teachers pick up regularly on Filipino prostitutes, female teachers sleep with taxi drivers and American soldiers, and I GET NOTHING due to personal choice, of course, and of fear of contacting any of the diseases that I must be tested for yearly, while they are not being tested!

Who do we approach to end this discrimination and make yearly medicals compulsory for ALL teachers in Kuwait? Or, is it again one of those questions that is taboo in this, the MECCA OF DISCRIMINATION?

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28 thoughts on “Selective Medicals in Kuwait

  1. Am from south Africa…i saw this comment on positive blogs and i will love to tell every body how my status changes to negative, and am now a living witness of it and i think its a shame on me if i don’t share this lovely story with other people infected with this deadly virus…,HIV has been ongoing in my family… i lost both parents to HIV,. and it is so much pain Ive not been able to get over.. as we all know medically there is no solution to it..and medication is very expensive. So someone introduced me to a native medical practitioner in Africa..i had a job there to execute so i took time to check out on him.i showed him all my tests and results.. i was already diagnosed with HIV and it was already taking its towel on me.. i had spent thousands of dollars so i decided to try him out…i was on his dosage for 3 weeks. although i didn’t believe in it, i was just trying it out of frustration… and after 2 weeks, i went for new tests… and you wont believe that 5 different doctors confirmed it that am was like a dream,,i never believe aids has now negative,,am a living witness..i don’t know how to thank this man… i just want to help others in any way i can..have joined many forums and have posted this testimonies and a lot of people has mail and called this man on phone and after 2 months they all confirmed negative..BBC news took it live and every.. hope he helps you out.. everybody saw it and its now out in papers and magazines that there’s native cure for HIV and all with the help of this man,,have tried my own parts and all left with you,,if you like take it or not..god knows have tried my best.about 97 people have been confirmed negative through me..and they send mails to thanks me after they have been confirmed negative,,this man is real..don’t miss this chance,,hiv is a deadly virus,,get rid of it now..
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  2. How about good advice for new international teachers? There is so much great information here about places, salaries, spouses etc., but what about “Getting your first international teaching job”?


  3. “If we are here to teach, let us teach what we know to be RIGHT and liberate the ‘way of thinking’. Gees I think you are making a fundamental error here. You are in Kuwait as a subject teacher not a human rights advocate. Did you mention in the interview these opinions you have? No you clammed up right? Now on secret posts in an international forum you are shouting ‘Freedom, Freedom.’ Good, very good! Again I state you are not hired as a human rights teacher across Kuwait. I am sure you felt this strongly you would not have been hired. Let them run their own country and you teach your subjects!


    1. When you move out of the west, you can’t take the political egalitarian ideals with you. I personally would want to know if I had those diseases so being tested would not offend me. I agree with Julie of Korea.


  4. Slept on this one. You are writing to highlight a problem that you are just blowing smoke over. Have you manned a picket line? Have you refused the medical? No! So I suggest you are just making a noise that you want someone else to pick up for you. As mentioned in another post, Kuwait is not a democracy and medicals are a way of life for most of us teaching overseas. I have worked in Asia for 5 years and I do the medical as part of the contract stipulations. You knew all this before you went to Kuwait and that’s that! Time to go home.


    1. CurlySue:

      If all you have to contribute is ‘leave’, you are not providing this person with comments of any value. Please elaborate on why you might choose to react this way and how you would handle that…


    2. We met a ton of smartasses like you in Kuwait….swift one liners that summed up an arrogant and inhumane view of others. When in Rome…. is an overused and mundane dogma that doesn’t deal with the injustices that plague overseas teaching. Basically what you are saying is take the s..t they give you, be glad you have a job and do whatever it takes to survive, including abandoning your values and inherent human rights because you are in a foreign country. Great teaching philosophy as well!


    3. Thank you very much for your comments weedonald! I am being asked to undergo a medical in Kazakhstan. This includes a chest x-ray and a rectal swab. My sister is a senior radiographer who advises that an x-ray should never be taken where there is no evidence of any disease. The rectal swab is very humiliating and can cause pain. Female staff also have to undergo a gynecological examination. They are told about this the day before and are told that it has to be done by a certain date, regardless of whether they are menstruating.

      I have refused to have x-ray but agree to a sputum or skin test.

      We have established that they can test for parasitic worms using a stool sample.

      I have been leaned on heavily over the last few days. This attempted coercion is being carried out by US and British nationals. I am not sure about the US but in Britain a person needs to be very careful how they proceed. I felt that being asked how my wife felt about my decision and asking about my financial security was extremely inappropriate. The Vice-Principal is trying to make me feel guilty about taking a stand. I believe that we all have a responsibility to conduct ourselves in the manner our country and culture expects, even when we go overseas.

      He refers to the effects of my actions. A refusal is a non-action. An action results in a reaction. No action does not. (Sorry about the Newtonian Physics).

      The school seems reluctant to fire me. Instead they are indicating that I am going to be suspended without pay. I see this as an attempt to force a resignation. It has been put to me that it is better for me to take the initiative and resign.

      I strongly suggest that any medical tests should be itemized firstly in any job advertisements and secondly at the point of making a job offer. Employment should not make reference to medical tests without stating exactly what those tests are. Less invasive options should be made available.

      Incorrect information leads to a total lack of trust. I was told that a fluorogram is not an x-ray (false) and that there are no alternatives to a chest x-ray (also false)

      Part of the IB learner profile is that students are principled. We can only expect that from our students if we set an example.

      I am the last man standing. That is the only one not coerced into compromising my principles and beliefs. While I am feeling very stressed and extremely upset. I remain determined that I will not be broken.

      A number of colleagues have expressed concern in the words “Are you cutting off your nose to spite your face”. This just illustrates the difference in the value we give to our beliefs and ethical arguments.

      Again thank you for your intelligent and well expressed points. I am so glad that I am not the only one that thinks my way.


    4. Hi Biologymann!

      I have taught in Aktobe, Kazakhstan and nobody forced us to do rectal swabs or gynecological examinations. We had to do the X-rays though. So what was the outcome at the end? Were you forced to leave Kazakhstan? I am now in the process of moving to a different city in KZ and really hope I am not going to encounter a similar scenario… I am really worried.


    5. I underwent the x-ray which they had to do twice as the first attempt was not a success. I provided a stool sample. I actively sought new employment. The international team leader had agreed to provide a reference. I later found out that he had declined to provide me with a reference for a job in Singapore. He was not man enough to inform me of this until I asked him directly.

      I sought a reference from elsewhere. I had an interview for a job in Scotland at the start of the Christmas holidays. I had previously been offered a temporary contract, but they were unwilling to offer a permanent position on the strength of a Skype interview, so I suggested spending two days in the school so that all staff could meet me and my teaching could be observed. After ten observed lessons, I was offered a permanent contract.

      I have relocated my family from England to the far north of Scotland. After 13 years as an international teacher, my experiences in Kazakhstan led to my decision to return to teaching in the UK.

      The pay was good in Kazakhstan, but I was separated from my family and I am of the opinion that staying in the country long-term could have lasting effects on my health. Living in Scotland means a healthier, more varied diet and is conducive to a more active lifestyle.


  5. I sympathies with you as one of my family members has to go for the annual tests. But what you need to understand is how politics works. If your government is prepared to send troops to Iraq to overthrow a regime that threatens Kuwait, you will not need to have annual drug tests. I suggest you ask your government if they are prepared to do that. My guess is that your government are recipients of US or UK aid and do not spend your taxpayers’ money to keep 2 aircraft carriers in Bahrain. This e-mail is not to discourage you in your quest, but to allow you to see the world as Kuwaitis might see it.


  6. I am a little surprised and disappointed at the vitriol and nastiness of some of the replies to this article. The poster of this article never intended to start an uprising or call into question the legitimacy of annual health testing but some of the “holier than thou” ex-pats vilified the poster as if they were 2nd class louts! I see this forum as a reflection, in minature, of the international schools where I have worked, the majority being welcoming and understanding of differences and a small minority being judgmental and uncaring about other staffs’ challenges and suffering.


  7. Amen…….Poster of article. Viva!!!!! You made your point very clear. I agree whole-heartedly with you.


  8. I posted the article not to offend anyone but to inform teachers that should they come to Kuwait, they would be discriminated against purely because they are not a passport holder of a certain country.

    I quote “Perhaps you didn’t know that over 40 Egyptian teachers having arrived in Kuwait with ‘clean bills of health’ from their own countries, last year, were discovered to have Hep B……………”

    I actually know that the British teachers also provided their own medical certificates when they came here and somehow or the other they tested positive. So……does teachthemasses suggest that only certain country’s pathologists can’t be trusted to give accurate results or is this not a sign that everyone should be retested every year?

    Please explain to me how children will contract these diseases from teachers in the first place.

    So, let me rock the boat…..and see who drowns first, me or you?

    If we are here in Kuwait to teach, let us teach what we know what is RIGHT and so liberate the “way of thinking” (unfortunately the law makers in Kuwait are influenced by some countries who have a history of colonizing other nations). (Robert Mugabe had a point!!!)Yes, being from an African country and black, I know what I am speaking about.

    I am also happy to say that once again I am in the “all clear” after submitting to my “discriminatory” medicals two weeks ago. Do YOU know your current status????????????


  9. If you come from a country with a high rate of these diseases then it is only normal that you should be tested twice.

    Stop moaning and go back to your own country if you don’t like it, instead of coming here, taking Kuwaiti money ( which seems ‘clean’ enough for you) and stop your snivelling. Perhaps you didn’t know that over 40 Egyptian teachers having arrived in Kuwait with ‘clean bills of health’ from their own countries, last year, were discovered to have Hep B……………


  10. There is some merit to your concern about discrimination and the oddities of living in Kuwait. I wouldn’t worry about the medical testing, and I had to endure it too, but some of the other practices are illegal. I saw it happen when I was in Kuwait.

    Schools knowingly allow unmarried couples to live together and at least one school PAYS the singles extra money if they agree to give up their single housing to live together – they pretend that it is same sex teachers agreeing to live together to free up housing for others. wink, wink. The payment is over $400 per teacher, so unmarried couples can make up to $800 more per month than other teachers. Of course, that fits in with the culture of Kuwait, money, money, money.

    It is illegal and immoral, yet school owners let this western practice occur. If you turn your head to illegal acts, then be prepared for teachers to expect that illegal and immoral acts are acceptable.


  11. You wrote: If you live in a democracy, why accept discriminatory practices?

    Kuwait isn’t a democracy. It’s a constitutional monarchy. Besides, even in a democracy expat workers don’t get to change the rules of the game.

    I’m not sure what the real issue is. You should get your medicals done every year whether required or not, and it’s basically free at any government clinic or hospital. There are so many things that we are all required to do to live here – the testing is quite minor. Do hope you dont let something so minor spoil your day, month or year.


  12. Well, I guess this is the ‘benefit’ that Americans get for bailing out Kuwait from Saddam during the First Gulf War, eh? Americans and Brits who flail about with unprotected sex end up potentially dying from AIDS since they didn’t have to get tested…. Sounds to me like they’re discriminating against Americans/Brits! Or, maybe this is Darwin’s Law at it’s best — those people who are too stupid to protect themselves can, eventually, be eliminated from the gene pool…. This may sound harsh, but we’re not talking about blood transfusions here…

    To me, being required to get the medicals, whatever your nationality, is truly beneficial. If I were you I’d think of it as this benefit (while being only a minor nuisance), a check-up that you get annually for your health, and lucky you!

    Now……if you’re making less money or lacking somehow in other ways because of your nationality, well that’s something to complain about!! Scream from the highest mountain tops about THAT discrimination!


  13. yes, this is discriminatory.

    but in fairness, countries discriminate all the time–eu countries allow free transit for citizens of member nations, but not others. some countries demand visas for some nationalities, and not others.

    yes, HIV testing is intrusive. but in the relative scale of things, it’s pretty minor, IMHO. when i taught in a Muslim culture, it was part of ‘doing business’. when i taught in Scandinavia, it wasn’t.

    there are much worse things to worry about, frankly.


  14. Test all or none!!!!! I am working here for 5 years and know what I’m talking about. In Kuwait, all teachers from the Sub-Saharan Africa,India and some Eastern block and far Eastern countries are actually required to do yearly medicals as HIV stats for these countries are high. Sometimes this is not consistent as I know of people who skipped a year and was granted residency for another year without testing and then suddenly they were told the next year to go test again.

    This does not mean that other nationals can’t contract these diseases in their own countries or while on a visit to any of these countries (Kuwait-based teachers travel often). If you live in a democracy, why accept discriminatory practices? Maybe the above 5 respondents will feel different if the discrimination was against them only. I have also heard of a lady who was told that she tested positive for HIV in Kuwait, and when she got deported to her home country, she tested negative. The director of this school actually used the medicals to get rid of her as parents complained that she was too overweight and they did not want an overweight teacher to teach their children! This lady went through lots of trauma as Kuwait does not offer pre-and post counselling before the tests and you stand no chance to defend yourself as you will be deported immediately and the contents of your flat destroyed as “it might be contagious” Kuwait has also not released it’s stats on HIV as it is considered to be free of such diseases.

    Just down the road from where I live in Kuwait is a centre for Drug Rehabilitation!!!!! (at least they acknowledge that!) I wonder if you would feel the same if there was a rule that all British nationals and no one else should be tested every year before a work permit is renewed in Kuwait?


  15. I don’t really see what the big deal is. Do they make you pay a huge amount for the test? If not, then you are getting a yearly exam for things that you should be tested for regularly.

    TB, Malaria, and HepB aren’t even sexually transmitted, so don’t have much to do with the sex lives of your coworkers. You also seem a little bit too preoccupied with whom your fellow teachers are sleeping.

    What would make you sleep better? If you were exempted? If everyone had to do yearly exams? In the grand scheme of things, this hardly qualifies as a blip on the discrimination radar. I think that you have a bit of a victim complex.


  16. As one crazy cat said “Always look on the bright side of life.” By having annual testing, you are at least taking care of your health.


  17. I have been in Kuwait for just under 10 years and have worked in 2 different schools during that time. I have had positive and negative experiences, but for the most part have had a grand time including the birth of 2 children here. Kuwait has a tribal culture with an ethnically based caste system. Things are slowly changing for the better, but it is a slow process. This is no secret. If you choose to work here you must accept this. If you can’t then Kuwait is not for you. Therefore, regarding HIV tests for some and not others I simply say, “So what?” If this is part of the requirement for you to be in the country then do it. How hard is it to get some blood drawn? Besides, it is no more discriminatory than some nationalities needing visas when others don’t when traveling. Like Wendy P wrote, you are not there to change national or school policy. If you enjoy teaching in Kuwait get the test, renew your visa, and enjoy the blistering heat and never ending sand. (Consider also that in today’s global economy most people would gladly give their blood and a whole lot more just for the opportunity to have employment – if you have a job be glad; if you have a good job – be truly thankful.)


  18. It is true that this unfair treatment could very well be legally discriminatory, and it is also true that the law may or may not state explicitly which nationals will or will not be tested and on what basis.

    However, I would like to point out that no administration likes to keep an employee that rocks the societal boat. You are a visitor in another country (albeit strict and limited in view) and are more than likely to get a reputation as a trouble-maker. You alone can NOT change national policy, nor do you truly have the power to change school policy. In fact, it could put you on the ‘inflexible’ and possibly ‘non-renewable’ list by your administration. You may be incensed by the idea but I would nip it in the bud and consider this as part of the overseas teaching experience. We, in other more liberal countries are used to more equal treatment but in others …


  19. My wife and I have been in numerous countries, including a 2 year stint in Kuwait, where we had a rather mediocre medical ” exam” and never heard about an obligatory annual test. We are both Canadians so maybe we are excluded as well from this discriminatory practice. I would put money on it that the law requires ALL foreigners to be tested annually, or it may also say that it is at the discretion of the Ministry of Health to determine which nationals must undergo annual testing.

    The first thing to do is to find out what the law states. The second thing is to ask your school to enquire about this practice, particularly if some nationals in your school don’t need to be tested and others do. What other teachers do or don’t do is none of your business, but the fact that you are being singled out because of your nationality is indeed discriminatory. If worse comes to worse you can speak to a local lawyer but if you don’t get the support of your school, this can be a risky proposition.


  20. This certainly seems like everything I’ve read so far on expat life in Kuwait. Should we take this to also mean that Kuwaitis are immune to HIV as they are not being tested on any schedule. Or, would testing be admitting that just maybe those prostitutes actually have a “few” native born clients? Good piece of information. Thanks for making this letter available.


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