Australian Prime Minister Howard Preparing Plan That Could Tighten Regulations Concerning HIV-Positive Immigrants
Australian Prime Minister John Howard on Friday said he is preparing a plan that would tighten regulations concerning HIV-positive immigrants seeking to enter the country, the West Australian reports. The plan could prevent HIV-positive people from entering Australia or track their movements throughout the country, according to the Australian (King, West Australian, 5/12). Howard last month in a radio interview said his "initial reaction is no" to a question of whether HIV-positive people should be permitted to immigrate to the country, although he said he needed "more counsel" on the issue. He said, "I think we should have the most stringent possible conditions in relation to that nationwide, and I know the health minister is concerned about that and is examining ways of tightening things up."
According to Howard, Australia currently restricts those with certain communicable diseases, such as tuberculosis, from immigrating. Australia's policy says people ages 15 and older who apply for a permanent visa must receive an HIV test. If applicants are found to be HIV-positive, "immigration authorities are to take into consideration the cost of the condition to Australia's health care and community services if a visa were to be granted." Seventy of the 334 new HIV cases reported in 2006 in the Australian state Victoria were among immigrants who were HIV-positive when they came to the country (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 4/13).
Howard recently wrote letters to the country's ministers of immigration and health asking about the public health implications of letting HIV-positive people immigrate to the country, The Age reports. The Department of Immigration and Citizenship is "looking at what requirements" for HIV testing Australia has "under different visa classes" and whether requirements for HIV-positive people to enter the country should be expanded, a spokesperson for Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews said. According to The Age, the immigration and health departments are investigating whether the government should be notified of HIV-positive immigrants' movement throughout the country. An unnamed source said that the departments are not considering a ban on HIV-positive people entering the country but are seeking improved screening and monitoring (Stafford, The Age, 5/11). According to the Australian, Howard expects to discuss the issue with his Cabinet within the next two weeks.
Trish Langdon, executive director of the Western Australian AIDS Council, said that Howard misunderstood the regulations for HIV-positive immigrants, adding that HIV-positive people seeking admission to the country or citizenship "usually [have] a very compelling reason" (West Australian, 5/12). Don Baxter, spokesperson for the Australian Federation of AIDS Organizations, said that HIV cases "arising from short-term visa holders have had a minuscule impact" on the HIV/AIDS situation in the country. Baxter added that screening people who are seeking to enter Australia could have an adverse impact on the tourism industry (The Age, 5/11).