Howard’s HIV Remarks Anger Africans

Howard's HIV remarks anger Africans

The Age (Melbourne)
April 16, 2007 – 3:14PM

Australian Prime Minister John Howard's suggestion that he would consider banning HIV-positive migrants has angered African AIDS experts at an international AIDS workshop.

Representatives from various organisations from across Africa attending an HIV-AIDS workshop in Dar-es-Salaam accused Mr Howard of over-reacting and called on him to reconsider.

African newspapers and radio stations have reported Howard as saying he would look at changing the law to stop HIV-positive migrants and refugees from being allowed in to Australia.

“My initial reaction is no, they should not be allowed in Australia,” Mr Howard reportedly said.

“There may be some humanitarian considerations that could temper that in certain cases but prima facie, no”.

Delegates at the Tanzania AIDS workshop criticised the prime minister's comments.

Andrew Ouma from Kenya said: “It is an unfortunate statement which he should withdraw. It affects all people living with HIV-AIDS in the whole world.

“It stigmatises them.”

Wilson Morobo from Tanzania said Australia had recently become one of the most friendly countries to African states, but the prime minister's comments hurt the relationship between Africa and Australia.

“Howard's statement undermines the relationship between the two continents.

“I am certain he is targeting African immigrants.”

Rwandese delegate, Pascal Wimana said that HIV-AIDS was an international phenomena.

“It is unfair for leaders to start discriminating against people from other countries using AIDS …,” he said.

Daniel Chambala from Zimbabwe argued that if Australia insisted on not allowing people living with HIV-AIDS to migrate there, African states should also start asking for Australians to provide information on their HIV-AIDS status before they enter African countries.

Festo Mbalula from Democratic Republic of Congo called it immoral not to allow people to enter Australia based on their health conditions.

Mr Howard made the HIV-AIDS remarks in response to new Victorian Health Department figures showing the number of HIV-positive people moving to the state had quadrupled in the past two years.

“I think we should have the most stringent possible conditions in relation to that nationwide and I know the health minister (Tony Abbott) is concerned about that and is examining ways of tightening things up and I think people are entitled to be concerned,” Mr Howard said.