Saturday, April 14, 2007

Don't admit immigrants with HIV to Australia

John Howard reiterated Government policy when he said that those with HIV should not be admitted as migrants to Australia.

Under Australia's existing immigration arrangements, all people over the age of 15 who apply for permanent residence are tested for HIV. People under 15 are tested if either of their parents is HIV-positive, if they are an applicant for an adoption or child visa or an unaccompanied humanitarian visa, or if there are clinical indications or a history of possible infection. Temporary visa applicants are screened for HIV if they are seeking to work as a doctor, dentist or nurse.

Permanent visa applicants with a medical condition are automatically knocked back if the lifetime cost of their treatment exceeds $21,000.

The Immigration Department estimates the lifetime cost of an HIV-positive person is $240,000 to $250,000. In 2005-06, HIV-positive people accounted for 48% of requests for health waivers in cases where lifetime medical costs exceeded $200,000.

So Australia is being used by non-resident HIV sufferers who gain a health waver as a way of paying for the medical costs of their HIV infection. Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations spokesman Don Baxter said people with HIV ‘contribute enormously to Australia's benefit’. They would want to be contributing a lot given the infection risks they pose in the Australian community and the huge health costs they pose on us.

Australia’s HIV infection rate has soared since 1998. It would be negligent of any government to admit to Australia immigrants it knew was suffering from HIV. Do not admit them and do not give health waivers to those who come here with HIV.

One claim cited in the Arab Times is that Australia might be guilty of discrimination. It is discrimination but what a great idea discrimination in this instance. Australian citizens with HIV should receive normal health assistance. Those with HIV who live elsewhere should continue to live elsewhere. Australians who want to live with their HIV-infected partner in Australia should post a non-refundable $245,000 bond with the Commonwealth Government covering their partner’s heath costs attributable to HIV/AIDS. They should also be liable for any damage costs incurred by the partner as a consequence of spreading the HIV virus.

The claim that immigrants provide only a small component of HIV cases in Australia is not an argument for admitting those who are affected by HIV. Its an argument shoewing that the costs of excluding those with a serious disease that works against our national interest HIV is a small one to those excluded.

16 comments:

no prejudice said...

This is just another form of discrimination and prejudice that Howard loves to advocate. People with HIV are only an infection risk to others if they behave in an extremely irresponsible way. It is a rather large and negative assumption to make that people with HIV will take actions which may infect others.

Alain said...

Let's go ahead and allow the 70000 AIDs infected Somalis to re-settle here in Oz so we can have these same things in our streets!

Why don't they immigrate to a country controlled by the "Religion of Peace"? Because they don't like the barbarian way of life that is totally against the West. The sooner we understand this and close our borders to these people, the better.

When they hear those words "Allahu Akbar"..they know what it must have felt like when people heard the words "Hiel Hitler" in 1938.

Andrew Bartlett said...

If Mr Howard was merely "reiterating government policy", he did it in a way which sounded like he didn't know it was already policy (which I suspect he doesn't - it's not the first time he's shown he doesn't really have much of an idea of the detail of our migration system and laws). He also said the Health Minister was looking at ways of "tightening things up", which strongly suggests he thinks there's evidence of some problem in the existing process.

He could easily have said we already screen migrants for HIV and are able to deny a visa to any with a significant medical condition, and that HIV is not a contagious disease (unlike tuberculosis, etc) so we don't need to be completely draconian in our approach or attitudes. Instead, he pandered to (and therefore increased) the ignorance and prejudice of many people.

Migrants have always been an easy target for politicians, as have people with HIV/AIDS. The combination of the two was obviously too tempting for the PM to resist.

His comments are aimed at giving tacit encouragement to bigots like your commenter Alain.

I'd also be interested to see how you deduce that "Australia is being used by non-residents as a way of paying for the medical costs of their HIV infection." How do non-residents get Australia to pay for their medical costs?

hc said...

JWH wasn't exercising bigotry at all. He was just expressing the reasonable view that people with a dangerous and expensive disease such as HIV should not be accepted as migrants. We can obviously do better by selecting migrants who have skills and who do not impose huge health costs as residents.

Thats the reason that applicants for migration status are rejected if they seem likely to impose huge health costs.

By tightening up I assume he means denying exemptions - a very reasonable move.

To answer your last question: Obviously when they enter Australia and become residents they will incur a large part of the $245,000 health costs paid for largely by the Australian taxpayer.

I do not agree with Alain but I do oppose admitting HIV positive migrants, TB sufferers, supporters of the Taliban and career criminals to Australia.

We can do better than these people as a source of new citizens.

melanie said...

Wow! I'm stunned. $250,000 isn't very much money if you compare it to what an individual might produce in value added over, say, 20 years, not to mention the wages they might spend helping to create employment for others (you know, the old multiplier effect). Maybe you're talking about AIDS, not HIV status? HIV+ people can now lead long and productive lives without ever infecting another individual.

Anyway, I'm sure that, unlike the Somali government, we can afford to pay for these medical costs. We could just look at it as a much needed improvement in our foreign aid contribution. Perhaps you'd just rather leave people in Africa to rot? Oh wait, why focus on Africa? The sources of our skilled migrants also have rapidly rising HIV prevalence. At least in this country people would be unlikely to be spreading it further.

hc said...

If you are talking about value added(not income) its a lot of money. In 20 years the value-added to the economy of a person earning $50,000 annually would be much less than half $250,000.

Moreover the cost is the opportunity cost - the net cost we incur taking in an HIV sufferer comnpared to the net gain of bringing in a skilled migrant without a serious disease.

There are an estimated 39.5 million people with HIV/AIDS. How far should Australia's contribution to funding their medical bills go Melanie? How much can we afford? How much should we pay?

And why stick to HIV/AIDS. Why the interest this disease? Why not support for those suffering from TB or malaria? Or those suffering the effects of poverty.

The argument you are propounding Melanie, runs nowhere.

conrad said...

If I was to be cynical, I would say it seems like a cheap ploy to get some votes -- especially since I presume that Labor won't have a different policy.

However, that being said, I agree with you HC, evidentally unlike many of the other comentators. I don't think we should let anybody in that is going to be a huge cost to the Australian community, unless someone privately shoulders the cost. Its not a logical use of money -- the money spent on one person could help many others.

Actually, there is another thing to consider, even for people willing to donate, in that if you do want to donate money (whether directly or forcing others via taxes), surely it makes more sense to donate to organizations that are already in countries with large numbers of HIV (or whatever disease) suffers. Australian healthcare is exceptionally expensive, and far more could be done in places where healthcare isn't.

Sinclair Davidson said...

Harry - have you seen this?

Just for the record, when I cam to Australia I was tested for a range of disease, not just HIV. Paul Keating was PM at the time - so this kerfuffle is pure partisanship.

Andrew Bartlett said...

Harry said "And why stick to HIV/AIDS. Why the interest in this disease?"

Precisely. We already test potential permanent residents for HIV/AIDS and have done so for a long time - as John Howard should know and could easily have said. So why single it out? That hardly needs answering given the Howard/Hanson record in this area.

There are plenty of health conditions which can potentially carry a large cost on the Australian health system - that's why we stop many skilled migrants (and others) from being able to settle here if they have children with a disability. Kids with cerebral palsy, Cystic Fibrosis, even autism, are regularly kept out, along with their parents. Why single out HIV?

As for your response that "Australia is being used by non-residents as a way of paying their medical costs" "when they enter Australia and become residents" - firstly by definition this means they are NOT non-residents, secondly they would have to become permanent residents (not just temporary which is by far the majority these days), thirdly in some cases they still have to pay a bond to cover health costs and fourthly they can only get this permanent residency IF Australia decides to waive the health requirement (usually for humanitarian or public interest reasons), in which case we do it in full knowledge of the potential cost and decide it is still on balance a reasonable thing to do - presumably because not every decision should be boiled down solely to an actuary table.

SInclair Davidson said...

Sorry Andrew - what is Howard's record on HIV?

hc said...

Andrew really.

The 'Howard/Hansen record' - give us all a break.

You mention a long list of illnesses - all of which evoke sympathy - and attempt tpo conflate this with the issue of how we select our migrants. If I say you want high-valued skill migrants without significant public sector costs I am morally equivalent to someone who has no pity for a child with Cerebral palsy.

But we do have to make choiuces as a nation. Do we choose migrants who provide us with the greatest net advantage or is our immigration policy an international charity scheme?

This picture you paint really grinds at the heart strings but does not meaningfully address the concern I addressed to Melanie. What are the limits of our social concern with respect to the problems of the world?

As I understand it temporary entrants are not screened for HIV unless they seek to work in particular occupations such as nursing. The migrants I am talking about - and I think this is obvious - are those seeking PR.

rabee said...

Harry

Should I understand that you are advocating an absolute ban on admitting immigrants with HIV to Australia. Regardless of circumstances, their potential contributions, wealth etc. Yes, I did read the post carefully and couldn't figure the answer to this question. But somehow I would not be surprised if that's not what you are advocating.

BTW, remember this gem from Brendan Gidley (Pauline's buddy): "Mass Third World immigration: Enriching our culture by TB, syphilis, AIDS, hepatitis, rabies, leprosy."

hc said...

Rabee, Generally I support current law which excludes those imposing large public health costs in Australia.

The out I gave is for those who have partners with HIV. Maybe, in accord with second last para, their Australian partner could post a bond equal to the health cost $250,000 plus a liability for damages resulting from infections generated by partner.

But for immigrants generally seeking PR status in Australia who have HIV - I suggest do not admit.

Linking this argument with the views of Pauline Hansen is about as low as suggesting that not wanting HIV positive PRs in Australia is equivalent to being unsympathetic to children with Cerebral palsy.

rabee said...

Harry,

The problem is that the issue is already broadly linked with Pauline. It is part of the histrionics that we went through in the nineties concerning immigration. That to my mind is a given.

So it is perhaps prudent to be very clear when working through the issues. It's a question of clarity and the crispness of the discourse.

Anonymous said...

Is the W in JWH standing for wanker? Seems appropriate

hc said...

Anonymous, These asinine comments will in future be deleted. They say nothing other than that you dislike JWH. Half the Australian population won't vote for him so that, in itself, is uninteresting.

Why a wanker?