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Friday, 2 January, 2004, 09:36 GMT
Immigrants may face HIV tests
Tests could be carried out at airports
The government is considering plans to test all immigrants for HIV.

A report in The Times newspaper has suggested ministers have already backed the move.

But officials have insisted that while the policy is under review, no decision has been made.

We are reviewing the situation

Home Office spokesman
Ministers are believed to be looking at procedures in Australia, Canada and other countries where everyone seeking permanent residence is screened for HIV.

At present, there are no rules on screening immigrants to the UK for HIV.

Immigration officers can refer people who appear in poor physical or mental health to the port medical inspector.

They can also refer those who say they are coming to the UK specifically for medical treatment.

Medical care

People who test positive for HIV would not be barred from entering the UK, according to The Times.

However, their access to free medical care on the NHS could be restricted.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Health said: "The fact that a person has HIV/AIDS, or indeed any other serious health condition, does not provide grounds for refusing entry to the UK provided the person meets immigration requirements."

She added: "We take the matter very seriously and keep this policy under review."

A spokesman for the Home Office said a decision on whether to introduce compulsory HIV testing for immigrants had not yet been taken.

"We are looking at this issue but no decision has been," he said. "We are reviewing the situation."

The review is part of a cross-departmental study, which is examining the impact of immigration on public health.

Official figures show HIV, tuberculosis and other infectious diseases increased sharply last year.

In the case of HIV, three out of four heterosexuals diagnosed with the disease last year had come from Africa.

The UK charity Terrence Higgins Trust said it opposed any plans to screen immigrants for HIV.

Nick Partridge, its chief executive, said: "This isn't an immigration issue, it's about the global effects of HIV on the UK epidemic.

"Testing would-be migrants is the least effective in a range of measures that should be introduced, including good, consistent sex education for young people and prevention work with people in communities most at risk of HIV.

"None of the countries that have introduced compulsory testing have halted their epidemics, and most have seen rapid increases."

Shadow Health Secretary Dr Liam Fox accused ministers of making a U-turn on the issue.

He added: "I am delighted that the government has now signed up to the Conservative Party proposals to screen all immigrants for HIV and TB at port of entry."

See also:

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