Floating Life 4/06 ~ 11/07

an archive

What on earth is John Howard blathering about, and why?

John Howard says people who are HIV positive should not be allowed to migrate to Australia. Well, the fact is that already, according to the most complete database I could find (aidsnet.ch – the Swiss HIV/AIDS Documention Center online), Australia already asks all intending immigrants who are over 15 years old “to present an HIV test result with their application. It is unlikely that an immigration permit is granted to people presenting a positive test result.” However:

People with HIV may immigrate to Australia if one of the following criteria is met:

— if he/she has a spouse (including a de facto spouse) who is an Australian citizen or permanent resident
— if he/she has a fiance who is an Australian citizen or permanent resident
— if he/she has a long-term same-sex relationship with an Australian citizen or permanent resident
— if he/she is the dependent child of an Australian citizen or permanent resident
— being a former Australian citizen
— being a refugee

People applying on one of the above grounds still have to satisfy the Australian authorities that they will not

— prejudice the access of Australian citizens to healthcare facilities
— be a risk to public health or safety
— constitute an undue cost to the Australian community

Satisfying the first two criteria is not a problem for people with HIV, but they are sometimes refused permission to immigrate because of the cost of their health care. Costs are assessed for each individual applicant, based on his/her life expectancy and on an estimate of the total cost of the medication and of the hospital and other medical care services the person might require. It appears to the AFAO that this criterion is being enforced more harshly, and that more people with HIV are now being refused permission to immigrate because of the estimated costs of their healthcare, than was previously the case.

Howard didn’t do his homework, as he admits:

I would like to get a bit more counsel and advice on that [but] my initial reaction is no,” he said on Southern Cross Radio. “There may be some humanitarian concerns that could temper that in certain cases but prima facie, no.”

Mr Howard made the comments in response to a Victorian Health Department study that found an increase in the number of HIV positive people moving to the state.

Mr Howard says Health Minister Tony Abbott is concerned about the issue but the law would need to be changed to ban HIV positive people from entering the country.

HIV+ status is a condition not a disease. It is also very hard to pass this condition on to others under normal everyday circumstances. Even at the extreme end, as with Lord Malcolm, when the condition has become Stage 4 AIDS and opportunistic infections and lack of a functioning immune system are killing you, it is difficult to pass the disease on. My chances of contracting AIDS through visiting Lord Malcolm, even through showing the more normal signs of affection towards him, are about as remote as being run over by a bus while typing this entry. Now of course it is just possible a bus may burst through my wall at any moment, but it is not very likely, even though I am on the ground floor close to a road. In fact I am more of a threat to Lord M, should I be harbouring flu or gastroenteritis without knowing it, than he is to me. Further, the majority of people with HIV live lives, if they have adequate medical care, as productive (or not) as you or I, who may not be HIV positive. (A note: I don’t want to downplay the significance of HIV even given the improved outlook. Treatments are expensive and are not always pleasant. The virus is capable of nasty surprises too. Prevention remains the best strategy. Needless to say, in places where medical treatment is unavailable or inadequate HIV is still a terrible scourge and a major pandemic.)

So what is this all about? FEAR, that’s what. Howard’s magic juice. Loves the stuff, he does. Whip it out whenever you can; it turns people on, it seems, so they can vent their indignation in response. It’s the double bass and percussion of the Howard orchestra.

Although the United States has maintained its HIV ban, many other nations have eliminated such restrictions on those entering their borders, following the recommendations of international and domestic public health organizations that a ban is unnecessary and even counterproductive to public health. Indeed, several nations have denounced discrimination against HIV-positive individuals in the immigration context. France and the United Kingdom have admitted noncitizens with HIV as have, for example, Costa Rica, South Africa, and Thailand, all of which lifted HIV exclusion laws and policies. — Suzanne B. Goldberg, “Immigration Issues and Travel Restrictions” (USA).

George W Bush in December 2006 eased bans on HIV+ visitors to the USA, but “there is no indication that the far more damaging ban on HIV positive immigrants will also be lifted.” (The Devil is in the Details.)

Update Saturday

More details about what prompted John Howard’s comments on barring HIV+ immigrants appear in today’s Sydney Morning Herald: PM endorses strict HIV screening. It appears a complicating factor has been the “absence of HIV screening tests for more than 200,000 temporary workers and others who arrive each year,” a recent immigration phenomenon encouraged by the government. However, close examination of the actual numbers alluded to in the ABC report above (“…Victorian Health Department study that found an increase in the number of HIV positive people moving to the state”) shows that there were 70 such “immigrants”, 50 of whom had come from other states in Australia. Of the remaining 20 “about half were in Australian-born people diagnosed overseas, and about five were thought to be New Zealanders.” According to ABC radio last night the final tally is 9.

The executive director of the Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations, Don Baxter, said there was minimal evidence that HIV-positive migrants posed a risk of spreading the disease.

“If it is happening, we would know about it because we have the best HIV screening in the world,” Mr Baxter said. Any suggestion that temporary visa holders should be screened was a “red herring” because cost, logistical problems and the lack of evidence that it was needed made such an extension unlikely.

He said Ms Pike’s suggestion that health checks on migrants were not rigorous enough was an “appalling” attempt to divert attention from Victoria’s poor record on containing the HIV rate.

The predictable and depressing effect of the PM’s entry into the debate on the side of unreason but wholly in terms of his own variety of political correctness, and of course of Victoria’s blame-shifting, appears already in the Herald’s ongoing reader poll:

Call to ban HIV positive migrants
Where do you stand?

Ban them – 54%

Do not ban them – 46%

On an unrelated matter

Queer Penguin is good on convicted heroin peddler and reformed addict Michael Coutts-Trotter – aka Mr Tanya Plibersek – being appointed NSW Director-General of Education. My only doubts really were about his knowledge of education issues. Anyone who has so signally got his life back together should be lauded to the skies, in my view, not subjected to the kinds of attacks some have thought proper. My view was confirmed in talking last night to someone who actually knows Mr Coutts-Trotter.

When the drug rehabilitation system actually succeeds, what are we supposed to do? Mutter about “leopards” and “spots”?


The very day (1 June 2007) a good friend of mine dies of AIDS-related illness, Howard is at it again with this ignorant populist nonsense: see Triumph of the dill.

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Written by Neil

April 13, 2007 at 3:10 pm

8 Responses

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  1. This is what Mr Howard and Co do well. They create situations that they know are untrue and play the tough guy in knocking them down.

    It is worrying if they do not know their statements are untrue. Especially Mr Abbott.

    I believe we will see many more of these exercises in the next few months.

    I do hope the media will continue to do as they have this time.

    Florence Howarth

    April 14, 2007 at 4:14 pm

  2. Thanks, Florence. It is nice to see I am not the only one who reads this as a very vicious bit of wedging.


    April 14, 2007 at 4:54 pm

  3. N, I have commented at QP’s blog about this, but because it is something I feel very strongly about, I want to repeat that comment here, with minor edits.

    You talk about “drug rehabilitation;” I want to talk about rehabilitation more generally, and about John Lewthwaite, in particular.

    Sensibly people mostly agree that the drug question for Coutts-Trotter is a furphy, but there must be a real jobs-for-the-boys question.

    The real story is to contrast the favourable consideration of the possibility of redemption for Coutts-Trotter with the absolutely shameful treatment dished out to John Lewthwaite.

    I know the gay movement (is there a gay movement? not really, but you know what I mean) likes to distance itself from pedophile monsters, but there is every indication (and I think gay people of that era can certainly understand) that Lewthwaite’s crime was mixed up with mental disturbance which he suffered as a young gay man in darker times than now. For God’s sake, he managed to stay out of trouble for 7 years after spending practically all of his adult life in gaol.

    The revocation of his parole for relatively discreet cavorting in the nude was certainly a gay issue. This was not a sex crime, and even if it was, it was not a sex crime which indicates some kind of recidivism in relation to the the monstrous crime of his youth. That is definitely a slur on gay people.

    The subsequent flashing charge was ludicrous: just a bye-blow of the Telegraph-induced frenzy of public fear and (for him) notoriety. For that he spent another 5 months inside.

    Altogether, Lewthwaite went back inside for basically a year for one crime for which he has only been fined $1100 (even that fine was, in my view, unwarranted). He is now out of gaol but the commissioner for corrective services (not in any way a charming man: read his lips and do a little googling if you are in doubt) now proposes to subject him to a monstrous and surely unnecessary probation regime.

    So: one (sensible, possibly unduly favourable owing to politicisation of the public service) rule for “Mr Plibersek;” another for Mr Lewthwaite. I want to scream about the injustice, and I hope a lot of other people will too.

    Afterword: the parading of Lewthwaite on his release was despicable.

    Further, I would even question the Corrective Services’ estimate of Lewthwaite’s risk of reoffending at “9%.” Where on earth can such a figure come from, and what exact type of “reoffence” is included in that 9%? It sounds about as meaningful as the percentages ascribed to bodily disability (you know: 5% disability; 10% disability – where I guess 100% disability ought to mean dead).

    I suspect it means the risk of committing any offence. It cannot surely mean the risk of his sexually assaulting and murdering a boy, when he has already been out for 7 years without a suggestion of this.


    April 15, 2007 at 1:15 pm

  4. Before you respond to Marcel’s comment, read: Open Letter from John Lewthwaite; Fr Hugh J. Baron’s Commentary on the letter; Page 3 girls; Coverage of Lewthwaite Release. Media Watch 28/6/1999. One may then consider Andrew Bolt on the subject, and his commenters.


    April 15, 2007 at 3:20 pm

  5. Correction to my previous comment: I forgot that he sexually abused a boy but killed the boy’s sister. Should read: “the chances of his sexually abusing or killing a child.”


    April 15, 2007 at 7:10 pm

  6. Further correction! Still working from memory: he wanted to abduct the boy (and presumably we only know that because he said so), and ended up killing his little sister. Correction is probably still correct, or could just say “chances of his killing a child.”


    April 16, 2007 at 2:21 am

  7. Thankyou for your article on John Howard Blathering .It is well researched and factual .I bet it did not take you too long to find out the FACTS.

    Its a pity little bigot Johny has not lost his spots. I thought he was changed, how wrong was I. I have a HIV hetero partner and it was not easy for her to come to Australia. I had to prove myself with all the listing you gave four times over. At times begging. They make it sound that it is easy. Well it is not.

    I am relieved that somebody knows the truth of the matter. John Howard does not. I know this should go unstated to any rational person. But how does a person in a commited monogamous proved relationship become a danger to society at whole? Again thanks.


    June 1, 2007 at 3:32 pm


    There are some simple steps all HIV-positive tourists can take regardless of their destinations to minimize chances of undue customs delays or outright deportation:

    * Look healthy. Travelers who appear to be ill are likely to be targeted for indepth questioning or inspections.

    * Be discreet and polite.Don’t draw any undue attention to yourself that could cause customs officials to pull you aside.

    * Don’t advertise the fact that you’re HIV-positive. It pains me to have to give that kind of advice, but you might not want to wear a PLWHA t-shirt.

    * Keep your anti-HIV medications in their original bottles, and do not attempt to hide the containers. If you’re hiding them customs officials may think they contain contraband and may hold you to verify that they are permitted into the country.Opening packages or taking pills out of their prescription bottles will delay your time in security(more info).

    *Pack extra medicine and supplies when traveling in case you are away from home longer than you expect or there are travel delays.

    *If you are taking injectable medications (e.g., Fuzeon, insulin, testosterone) you must have the medication along with you in order to carry empty syringes(more info).

    *Depending on the circumstances it may be worthwhile taking along a doctor’s certificate (in English) which shows that the holder is reliant on the medication and that it has been prescribed by the doctor.Carry a copy of your prescriptions in your carry-on, purse, or wallet when you travel.

    *You can ask and are entitled to a private screening to maintain your confidentiality. Show copies of your prescriptions and/or your medication bottles and if you have any problems ask to see a supervisor.

    In general, the above points apply to entering countries with ambiguous or restrictive regulations: as long as HIV positive status does not become known, there will be no serious problems for a tourist. However, if someone is suspected of being HIV positive, or if the authorities have concrete reasons to believe they are, entry may be refused. Since october 2008 non-immigrant US visas are granted to HIV-positive people who meet certain requirements, instead of waiting for a special waiver from DHS(more info).

    My philosophy on the whole issue is that it’s not an issue, so I don’t present it as one.And I’ve never had any problems over the years of extensive travel.



    January 7, 2009 at 2:13 pm

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