Sunday, June 28, 2009

Just curious

I plan to do a lot more fact-finding on HIV/AIDS policy, particularly testing, once I'm back in the ROK, to affirm or refute the claims made by Ben Wagner (of ATEK's no-testing-for-all campaign) and the activist AIDS/HIV report used for the human rights campaign he spearheaded. The above graphic, which appeared in Ben Wagner's Korea Herald article on the subject, is related to the following claim from the report:
As of 2004, there had been 459 HIV/AIDS cases reported among foreigners in Korea. Once a non-Korean is found to be HIV-positive, he or she is forced to leave the country without any care or counseling. Between 1985 and 2002, more than 200 foreigners were deported from Korea under the Immigration Control Law (Article 2, Paragraph 1) after their HIV/AIDS diagnoses became known.
I do not want to make light of the issue, but the claim (cited by Ben Wagner in various places) doesn't entirely jive with the statistics presented. Specifically, if an HIV-positive non-ROK national is "forced to leave the country," how did the 200 or so HIV-positive people cited in the above paragraph or the 126 people (647 minus 521) end up not being deported?

I'm not asking to be glib or to catch Ben Wagner in a "gotcha" moment. I am asking because I want to know about the actual process and its enforcement? Are these people who were found to be HIV-positive before or shortly after they arrived in the Republic of Korea? Are long-time residents who test positive for HIV also kicked out? Are people of certain visa types more likely or less likely to be deported? 

The same report seems to suggest that the Korean government does something a lot of other countries don't, which is to pay for fairly expensive treatment to keep the HIV-positive healthy:
The KNIH monitors the immunological status of PLWHA free of charge, and the Korean government pays for 100% of the cost of highly active antiretroviral therapy medication for Korean PLWHA. Seven AIDS shelters throughout the Korean peninsula are available for PLWHA. The shelters provide board, counseling, rehabilitation services, and education.
PLWHA refers to "people living with HIV or AIDS." 

Even though the above part of the report uncharacteristically paints the ROK authorities in a positive light, I probably should investigate this claim as well, including seeing how much (if any) the Korean health insurance scheme pays for people suffering from full-blown AIDS (i.e., the latter stages of the disease when patients are quite sick, a point that the antiretroviral regime hopefully will prevent). 

Now here is where it gets sticky. If South Korea is paying such a significant amount of money for each HIV-positive individual, can it afford to take on the health care costs of non-citizens who became infected with this deadly virus prior to ever residing in the country

From a national policy perspective or an insurance theory perspective, such a thing would become unsustainable. It would create a moral hazard of sorts, where HIV-positive individuals would have a tremendous incentive to get themselves into the system, which could end up with dire fiscal consequences that end up adversely affecting the citizens and legal residents for whom the insurance scheme was set up. 

I am not trying to justify deportation of HIV-positive foreign nationals. If I were forced to formulate an opinion right now, it would be that foreign nationals who became infected with HIV while living in the Republic of Korea should not be deported and should be covered by the National Health Insurance Corporation the same as any ROK national. Ditto with the "vouched for" foreign nationals (i.e., F2, F4, and F5 individuals), at least those whose spouse, parents, or children were ROK nationals. 

Anyway, this post is not meant to make a statement, but to ask the questions listed above. I'm writing this largely for my own notes, so I know what questions to pursue, along with my investigation as to what testing regimen is part of mandatory health checkups for teachers (both "regular" and "irregular") in the schools ("public," "private," and "extracurricular"). 

Thus far, it appears that both regular and irregular teachers at the public and private school level are given health exams that include testing for HIV, syphilis, and several other STDs, contrary to the report often cited by Ben Wagner as evidence of unequal treatment faced by E2 visa holders. 

Teachers at extracurricular schools (i.e., hagwon), however, are not faced with this kind of thing as part of their employment, though it appears that most would be subject to HIV testing through other activities in their life (e.g., military service and later military training, other types of health checkup, etc.). 

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