Racism alleged in HIV tests

October 16, 1991

Racism alleged in HIV tests

By Ken Davis

SYDNEY — Community AIDS organisations have protested to immigration minister Gerry Hand against discriminatory HIV testing of people applying to visit Australia.

The protests were sent after four senior South African nurses told AIDS Council staff here that they had to submit to HIV tests before being granted six-week visas.

The nurses came on a study tour, visiting Aboriginal health centres, teaching hospitals and AIDS organisations in Perth, Broome, Alice Springs and Sydney. The visit was sponsored by the Canberra-based Australia/South Africa Training Trust.

AIDS workers here allege that the testing is racist and an insult to black communities in South Africa. White South African tourists and business people applying for short-term visas are not being made to submit to health tests.

Although the federal government is publicly committed to opposing travel restrictions based on HIV, it appears staff are using loopholes in regulations to apply the health test selectively.

Immigration officials now claim that they test visitors who are likely to go to any food industry workplaces, hospitals or schools. Since HIV is transmitted only sexually or by blood, such restrictions are ridiculous.

According to the ABC's Canberra commentator, Paul Lyneham, this defence is pretty shabby. "The next time there is a big medical convention in Sydney, with hundreds of specialists from Los Angeles and New York, we'll see if they have had to submit for HIV tests", he said.

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