HIV testing is caught between public health concerns and human rights concerns. The government and health authorities have a role to protect the public from the spread of dangerous or deadly diseases, especially when they end up footing the bill for costly treatment, but mandatory testing can be seen as an invasion of privacy or even stigmatization. When it seems to be directed only at certain groups, which may be the case with testing foreign
So that's my question: What is an acceptable HIV testing policy for South Korea vis-à-vis foreign nationals?
Consider the following questions:
- If most but not all ROK citizens, through their jobs and the National Health Insurance Corporation, military service, blood donation, etc., are routinely tested for HIV, is it acceptable to require the same of all seekers of E2 visas?
- If ROK citizens are typically tested for HIV only once (say, during military conscription or when they first enter a corporation), is it acceptable to require foreign residents to be tested repeatedly when their visa comes up for renewal?
- What if most ROK citizens are not tested at all? Is it still acceptable to require some or all foreign nationals to be tested upon entering the country with a new visa?
- Is it acceptable to test only some foreigners, like just teachers (i.e., E2s, E1s, and any F2, F4, or F5 who teaches children) or just those with teaching-specific visas (i.e., E2 or E1) or just those who might teach children?
- If E2s and E1s should not be tested, then what about E6 visaholders (i.e., those on "entertainment visas" who are often knowing employees for Korea's de facto legal sex industry? (That many of the women who come to Korea on E6 visas are duped into the sex trade is not something I wish to ignore, but if possible, I wish to treat that as a separate issue.)
- Is the problem with testing for E2 visaholders one not of fairness at all but one of privacy? In other words, would any mandatory testing policy be unacceptable, even if every ROK national in South Korea were subject to HIV testing?
- Should ROK nationals be subject to regular HIV testing or is it too stigmatizing?
- Does a blanket requirement remove stigma or increase it? Do public health concerns trump this?
- If mandatory HIV screening is a stigmatizing and therefore should not be done, does this apply to other diseases, like tuberculosis or syphilis? What, if anything, makes HIV different?
I'll be up front, however, that one of my biggest concerns is that we've let a heightened sense of so-called "human rights" trump good health care planning. Yes, getting HIV tested may be unpleasant and even humiliating, but not nearly as much as getting HIV. South Korea has — so far — largely kept HIV at bay, but it's not necessarily clear what factors or policies have led South Korea to that point. Would a purely "human rights"-oriented approach dismantle the dikes and bulwarks, or would they just remove archaic practices that are designed to make the public feel good but are inefficacious or even detrimental?