Canadian Officials Reject ‘Prospective’ Immigrants on Basis of Positive Mandatory HIV Test Results
Canadian officials last year rejected the applications of 75 HIV-positive "prospective" immigrants and others seeking temporary immigrant status under a mandatory testing program that bars people from entering the country if the government determines that their disease status will be "too costly to the health care system," the Toronto Globe and Mail reports. However, the government allowed 207 people who tested positive for the virus to enter the country as immigrants from Jan. 15, 2002, to Dec. 31, 2002. The program allows officials to bar those seeking to immigrate if they could place an "excessive demand" on the health care system, which is defined as $15,016 worth of publicly funded health care over five years, according to Citizen and Immigration Canada. The program also bars entry for any HIV-positive adult expected to require a minimum of 18 months of antiretroviral therapy over 10 years -- an estimated cost of $20,300. The program exempts refugees, "sponsored spouses," dependent children and common-law and conjugal partners from the excessive demand requirements, "no matter how severe and costly their disease" would be to the health care system, according to immigration department spokesperson Susan Scarlett. "We test for two reasons: one is to protect the health and safety of Canadians and the other is to prevent excessive demand on the Canadian health and social services," Scarlett said. However, Philip Berger, a Toronto-based family physician who has treated HIV/AIDS patients for more than 20 years, said that there is "no justification" for the testing and that it "further stigmatizes" HIV-positive individuals. He added, "It is going to have the disproportionately punitive effect on the highest prevalence of HIV, which [is] in sub-Saharan Africa. There are racial underpinnings of this policy -- it's discriminatory." The Globe and Mail reports that approximately 60 other countries, including the United States and Australia, require mandatory HIV testing for potential immigrants or those seeking temporary status (Priest, Globe and Mail, 2/24).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.