United Nations Needs to Screen Workers in East Timor for HIV, Australian Official Says
Denis Burke, chief minister for Australia's Northern Territory, on Tuesday called on the United Nations to screen its personnel in East Timor for HIV, saying that 10 cases had been detected among visitors from the country by doctors at a Darwin, Australia, hospital, Reuters reports. He added that one Darwin woman had contracted HIV from a U.N. worker visiting the northern Australian city from East Timor. Burke called on the Australian government to "consider restricting" visas that allow U.N. personnel to visit Darwin if the United Nations does not implement testing measures. The United Nations used Darwin as a "launch" site for its peacekeeping operations in East Timor, which won its independence from Indonesia in 1999. The agency currently has more than 10,000 personnel in the small country. Burke said that the Australian government had "confirmed" that the United Nations was not screening its personnel in East Timor for HIV, but that the "majority of reports of HIV infection" in the nation were among "foreign nationals from high HIV prevalence countries." He said, "Not only is the health and well being of territorians at stake but so too is that of the people of East Timor. I believe that if the United Nations is serious about tackling AIDS globally, they should start in their own backyard." East Timor is "extremely vulnerable" to an HIV/AIDS epidemic due to its "poor" health infrastructure and its "Catholic roots," which have left the people "relatively uneducated in safe sex measures," Northern Territory AIDS unit chief Jan Savage said (Reuters, 6/26).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.