MELBOURNE, Australia - 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
Don Baxter of the nongovernment group the Australian Federation of AIDS Organizations said HIV tests were already among health checks prospective immigrants were given, and most HIV-positive applicants were rejected on the grounds that they could pose an unfair burden on the public health system.
"It's very tight already," Baxter told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio.
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.
What I want to see is exactly what Lemoh's claim to public support and expertise is. Has he shown any ability to actually predict the flow of epidemics accurately?
My own sense is that international travel and immigration restrictions should in fact be increased for reasons of public safety and health. The hysteria here is on the part of Lemoh—which is implying that soon after the first quarantine we will have mass death camps soon thereafter.
It should be noted that the one country that experimented substantially with quarantine in the case of AIDS was Cuba, a leftist regime. In that case, Fidel Castro and their head of public health had an exceptionally good relationship—and the government was inclined to be cautious rather than roll the dice with their citizens' health. Eventually, the policy of quarantine was abandoned on the grounds it wasn't cost effective. However in the words of one Cuban public health official:
"The quarantine was very effective in stopping the first wave of the epidemic that came from Africa, given the amount of people we had over there," said Cuba's top AIDS expert Dr. Jorge Perez, a director at Havana's Pedro Kouri Tropical Medicine Institute
Cuba actually has one of the lowest rates of AIDS anywhere in the world—despite a fairly high rate of early cases(imported by having a large population of soldiers and medical personnel working in Africa.)