HIV status should not be a factor

Australian prime minister discriminates against HIV-positive immigrants.

Australian Prime Minister John Howard’s recent statements declaring that migrants and refugees infected with HIV should be refused entry to Australia have caused great international outcry. Considering how far our society has come in HIV awareness, it is disgusting that anyone, let alone someone with such a high position, would make such vile and hateful comments.

Australia already bans people with tuberculosis from entering the country as migrants, and all individuals over the age of 15 who apply for permanent residence are tested for HIV. Howard’s recent comments were made in response to a study that found an increase of HIV-positive people moving to Australia. On a side note, many AIDS organizations have declared the figures misleading.

The issue is not whether, in fact, there has been an influx of HIV-positive individuals into the country. The issue, rather, is the blatant discriminatory and tasteless character of his statements. The discriminatory policy insinuated by Howard has no purpose but to wrongfully vilify people with the disease.

It is not outlandish to say that a country should have the right to deny entry to whomever they deem to be a danger to society. After all, every country has a right to protect its borders. Proponents of the policy believe that allowing HIV immigrants into the country is not only a health risk, but it is also costly as far as it will place the burden on Australian taxpayers. However, discriminating against someone because of a medical condition is simply obscene.

The saddest facet of Howard’s comments is the extent of the ignorance necessary to even ignite such a discussion. There have been many major breakthroughs in modern science and medicine allowing HIV-positive individuals to enjoy longer and healthy lifestyles.

To deny entry based on HIV status would mean that you are deeming those individuals as “lesser citizens” or “lesser humans” than their peers. This is simply unethical. Far from being helpful to his country, Howard’s extremist comments do nothing more than stir up xenophobic attitudes within Australia.