Australia sits alongside China, Russia, Iraq and North Korea on a list of 59 countries that enforce HIV-specific restrictions on immigration.
In the lead-up to AIDS 2014 in Melbourne in July, representatives from UNAIDS requested several community based HIV advocacy organisations to evaluate the current immigration system, and to suggest possible changes that would allow Australia to be removed from that list.
In response to the request, NAPWHA, AFAO, ASHM and HALC have produced a joint Australian Community Organisation Briefing Paper on HIV and Immigration Policy. The briefing paper recommends an end to mandatory testing for HIV and suggests that testing should be offered as part of a settlement process that includes pre-test discussion and post-test counselling, in accordance with the National HIV Testing Policy.
The report also suggests that a ‘health waiver’ should be available for all permanent visa classes. This health waiver should be granted automatically where there are humanitarian concerns and, where there are not, applicants should have the opportunity to demonstrate other compassionate or compelling reasons why they should be able to stay. The paper also calls for the removal of the proviso that requires non-migrating dependants of the applicant to also undergo an HIV test.
Aaron Cogle, Deputy Director of NAPWHA, said: “The current process is discriminatory, stressful, and unnecessarily expensive both for the government and the applicant. This briefing paper outlines some changes we think are achievable and that would make a significant difference to PLHIV migrating to Australia.” The report has been submitted to UNAIDS and it is hoped that beneficial changes for PLHIV immigrating permanently to Australia will be made ahead of AIDS 2014.
BY STEPHEN WATKINS