The most pressing diabetes issue in my country, Kuwait, is discrimination against people diagnosed with diabetes. This discrimination happens in social and work contexts, or even among peers and family members. I have many examples of incidents to demonstrate that people living with diabetes are not taken into consideration as a productive and a healthy individual in society, and I have experienced discrimination myself.
Many individuals living with type 1 diabetes are not able to get a job due to their condition. It is as if diabetes is considered a physical disability in my country. It is common for people diagnosed with diabetes to be assigned by their employer to carry out desk work rather than field work, even if they have the certificate and degree that shows them as an authority in the field. The employer wants to reduce his liability as much as possible in case of a diabetes incident (Hypoglycemia) in the field, so he removes people with diabetes from their positions as field workers.
There are many individuals that cannot get married due to diabetes. Many people have the perception that females diagnosed with diabetes are not able to live a healthy and a productive life, and that they are unable to give birth to a healthy child. Males with diabetes, on the other hand, can be seen as a burden and a liability towards their spouses.
Some Families in the MENA Region consider a child diagnosed with diabetes as a financial and a physical burden because living with diabetes requires high expenses that consist of medication and diabetes supplies (blood testing strips, glucose meters, lancets, pump supplies, accessories, doctors, diabetes specialist’s appointments, etc.). There are families that do not support their children living with diabetes and they are left out of education because they are considered from their parent’s perspective as individuals with a chronic disease that is incurable.
Stigma has a major impact on the lives of people living with type 1 diabetes in Kuwait, and I believe that this issue needs to be addressed by passing a law that would protect the rights of people living with diabetes. I believe it would give them a better chance in life. An anti-discrimination law would help to demonstrate that people living with diabetes can manage well in work, marriage and social life if there is access to proper medication, supplies and a professional diabetes education. It would allow everyone to see that when the needs of people with diabetes are met, they can be productive and healthy global citizens.
The first step that people with diabetes have taken in Kuwait is to show the world through social media, TV and radio interviews that living with diabetes can be manageable and that it is not a burden on anyone else. We have organized major events to raise awareness and change the misconception about diabetes and implemented the Diabetes Ambassadors Program, which delivers presentations in schools and work places to spread awareness about diabetes.
It is a great start because our events and campaigns have gained the attention of diabetes educators, medical staff as well as major hospitals and clinics. Our next step is to connect with human rights activists, lawyers and parliament members to ensure that a law to protect the rights of people living with diabetes is instated in Kuwait. We hope that as a united group we can push for implementation of this important law that will protect our rights as individuals in this society.
Mohammad has been living with diabetes for more than 32 years. He is the Founder of Diabetes Ambassadors Program, a Non-Profit organization. Their mission is to empower people living with diabetes, and their vision is to live a healthy and a productive life with diabetes. He is a T1International Global Advocate.