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Last Updated: Friday, 13 April 2007, 10:23 GMT 11:23 UK
Howard calls for HIV migrant ban
Aids mural in Sydney
Australia has seen a rise in the number of HIV cases in recent years
Australia should refuse to allow migrants or refugees with HIV to enter the country, Prime Minister John Howard has said.

Mr Howard said there may be special cases when an exemption could be considered but as a rule HIV-positive people should be denied entry.

Mr Howard was asked about the issue during a visit to Victoria state, which has seen a sharp rise in HIV cases.

Any ban for migrants with HIV/Aids would need a change in the federal law.

Mr Howard, on a visit to Melbourne, told a local radio station he wanted to seek more advice on the issue, but said his gut feeling was that HIV sufferers should not be allowed in to the country.

In the US, everyone arriving at Ellis Island was given a health exam and if you were found to be a carrier of certain diseases, you were sent back
Gerald, Chicago, USA

"My initial reaction is no," he said. "There may be some humanitarian considerations that could temper that in certain cases, but, prime facie - no."

Victoria's public health officials have blamed the rise in HIV cases partly on overseas immigrants, but also on Australian residents relocating from other parts of the country.

Tuberculosis ban

Mr Howard, who has been in power for 11 years, is known for his tough stance on immigration.

He likened his proposed ban to the ban already imposed on people suffering from tuberculosis.

John Howard
John Howard has a reputation for being tough on immigration
"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," he said.

Solicitor David Puls of the New South Wales HIV/Aids Legal Centre said the law allowed immigrants to be denied access where there are public safety concerns.

"The Medical Officer of the Commonwealth does not consider HIV to be a public safety concern," he was quoted by the Australian newspaper as saying.

He added that HIV should not be compared with tuberculosis as the latter is airborne and contagious, while HIV is transmissible but not contagious.

Australia has been alarmed by the country's rise in HIV cases. Infection rates rose by 41% between 2000 and 2005.

There is particular concern about the rapid spread of HIV and Aids in neighbouring Pacific countries, such as Papua New Guinea.




SEE ALSO
Australia alarm at rises in HIV
09 Feb 07 |  Asia-Pacific
Australia warned of Aids spread
29 Jul 06 |  Asia-Pacific
HIV impact: Region-by-region
30 Nov 05 |  Health
Country profile: Australia
23 Jan 07 |  Country profiles

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