Prime Minister John Howard said Friday that people with HIV should not be allowed to migrate to Australia, and that the government was investigating whether it could tighten existing restrictions.
Asked in a radio interview whether people with the virus that causes AIDS should be allowed into Australia as migrants or refugees, Howard said he would like to take “more counsel” on the issue, but added, “My initial reaction is no.”
He said that there may be “humanitarian considerations” in certain cases.
“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,” Howard said.
Howard was asked about the issue during a visit to Melbourne, the capital of Victoria state, where the state health minister said this week that 70 of the 334 new HIV infection cases reported in Victoria in 2006 were among immigrants who had arrived in the country with the virus.
Chris Lemoh, an infectious disease specialist who is researching HIV-AIDS among African immigrants in Victoria, said excluding people with HIV should be condemned.
“It’s a hysterical overreaction, it mixes racism with a phobia about infectious disease,” he said. “To not allow people to come on the basis of any health condition is immoral, it’s unethical and it’s impractical to enforce.”