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Wednesday, November 10, 1999 Published at 18:45 GMT

World: Asia-Pacific

Row over compulsory New Zealand Aids tests

New Zealand set to introduce controversial aids testing

By BBC East Asia reporter Clare Arthurs

The government in New Zealand says it will introduce compulsory HIV-Aids testing for immigrants from next year.

The decision has attracted protests from government departments, including the health department, which says there's no evidence of the spread of the illness from immigrants.

Community health and refugee groups have condemned the decision, saying New Zealand should be more humanitarian.

New Zealand already tests new arrivals for tuberculosis and syphilis. Now it wants to keep out people who have HIV, the virus which leads to Aids, arguing that New Zealand can't afford to take on the problems of the world.

Last year almost half of the HIV cases identified in New Zealand were refugees. The government says it will combine the test with existing health checks.

It will apply to anyone wanting to enter New Zealand for more than two years, including refugees, immigrants and students.

Unanimous opposition

The Cabinet decision has been received with almost unanimous opposition from government advisers.

Ministries, including health and justice, say the test is unnecessary and discriminatory.

They have been backed by Aids groups who say the only way to protect the health of the local community is to promote safe sex practices.

And the national refugee centre says the test will create more trauma for people who are already vulnerable.

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