Australian Health, Immigration Ministers Recommend Policy Requiring HIV-Positive Migrants To Report to Health Officials
Australian Health Minister Tony Abbott and Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews have advised Prime Minister John Howard to adopt a policy that would require HIV-positive migrants to report to health authorities within one month of arriving in Australia or risk losing their visas, the AAP/Sydney Morning Herald reports (AAP/Sydney Morning Herald, 5/31). Howard in April in a radio interview said his "initial reaction is no" to a question of whether HIV-positive people should be permitted to enter the country, although he said he needed "more counsel" on the issue. Howard recently wrote letters to the country's ministers of immigration and health asking about the public health implications of letting HIV-positive people migrate to the country.
Howard last month said he is preparing a plan that would tighten regulations concerning HIV-positive migrants seeking to enter the country. The plan could prevent HIV-positive people from entering Australia or track their movements throughout the country. According to Howard, Australia currently restricts those with certain communicable diseases, such as tuberculosis, from entering the country. 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.
The Department of Immigration and Citizenship in May began "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 Andrews said (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 5/15). Under the policy advised by Abbott and Andrews, HIV-positive people will be allowed to enter the country, but the government could begin alerting state health authorities to new HIV-positive migrants. The government is weighing that suggestion against privacy concerns, according to the AAP/Morning Herald. In addition, the Department of Health and Ageing will begin an audit of state and territory policies on dealing with people who knowingly expose others to HIV, the AAP/Morning Herald reports (AAP/Sydney Morning Herald, 5/31).
Howard on Friday during an interview with Macquarie Radio said that the review of the regulations is due "in the next week or so." He added that his "view is the best result is that no one with" infectious diseases is "allowed into the country. I want procedures put in place that see as far as possible that that doesn't happen" (AP/International Herald Tribune, 5/31). Pedro Cahn, president of the International AIDS Society, in a statement released on Friday said that Howard's statements are a "blatant disregard of basic human rights" and serve to "compound current HIV prevention and treatment efforts." He added, "Public health experts throughout the world agree that attempts to reduce HIV transmission by controlling the movements of people living with HIV are both impractical and ineffective" (IAS release, 6/1).