PM wants to ban entry to people with HIV
The Age (Melbourne)
June 2, 2007
HIV-POSITIVE people should be banned from entering Australia, Prime Minister John Howard said yesterday, ignoring the advice of his health and immigration ministers who have told the PM that migrants carrying the disease are not a risk.
Mr Howard has said that leprosy sufferers should also be prevented from entering Australia.
“My view is the best result is that no one with those sort of ailments is allowed into the country,” Mr Howard said on radio.
“I'm going to review the current position, and I want procedures put in place that see as far as possible that (HIV-positive people being allowed into Australia) doesn't happen. We are looking at it the next week or so.”
But this week, a letter from Health Minister Tony Abbott and Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews advised the Prime Minister that people with HIV/AIDS should not be stopped from moving to Australia.
The Age believes the letter told the Prime Minister that HIV, unlike the airborne disease tuberculosis, is not highly contagious, and that blocking entry to HIV-positive people could be seen as discriminatory.
It is believed the departments have told the Prime Minister that immigration has not had a significant impact on HIV infection in Australia. In 2005, just 2 per cent of 928 new infections were contracted overseas, and half of that number were Australians or New Zealanders.
The Prime Minister's comments have been condemned by HIV/AIDS experts.
Executive director of the Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations, Don Baxter, said he was surprised by the Prime Minister's comments, especially as it conflicted with his Government's own advice.
“My only thought is that the PM must not have had time to look at the analysis from the departments which says a policy change is not necessary,” Mr Baxter said.
He said the effect of refugees and migrants on the number of HIV infections was negligible.
“And it's already very difficult for people with HIV to migrate to Australia. All (HIV-positive) people are initially rejected, they then have to appeal, and very few are approved.
“Those that are are mainly partners, husbands or wives or same-sex partners of Australian citizens,” Mr Baxter said.
“So I don't understand why the Prime Minister would want to introduce such punitive measures against Australian families. It seems illogical.”
As well, an international HIV/ AIDS group has asked the Prime Minister to explain how HIV-positive visa-holders attending an international treatment and prevention conference in Sydney in July will be treated by his Government.
A letter from the European AIDS Treatment Group criticised Mr Howard for “fomenting stigma against people with HIV/ AIDS” and accused him of 19th century “isolationist measures”.
“We find your plans, motivated, we suspect, purely by populism, disrespectful of our struggle against the disease that affects us.”
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