Another no-go area for those with HIV
The Australian Prime Minister John Howard has raised the possibility of a new law which would prohibit people with HIV from entering the country. His comments have triggered an angry response from human rights campaigners. A ban already exists in the United States, Armenia, Brunei, China, Iraq, South Korea, Moldavia, Russia, and Saudi Arabia.
Australia has witnessed a sharp increase in the number of new HIV infections in the past five years, but Mr Howard's comments may be more concerned with electioneering than epidemiology. After all, HIV is not contagious, unlike tuberculosis.
There are enormous ethical issues raised by an HIV exclusion policy: it further stigmatise people with HIV; HIV doesn't need a visa to travel with people who don't know they are carriers; and this kind of exclusion policy may discourage people from having an HIV test, since the exclusion only applies to those who know their status.
Instead of exclusion and stigmatisation, we might make more progress in a common battle against the spread of HIV by making up-to-date health information more available, resourcing community-based testing and support programmes, and dealing with the underlying causes of unsafe sexual behaviour. One such underlying cause may be a tendency to self-harm that is shaped by a culture of exclusion and stigmatisation.