The Association for Teachers of English in Korea (ATEK) applauds the Korean Ministry of Health and Welfare for its decision to remove mandatory HIV testing from the E-6 and E-9 visa requirements, and extends congratulations to the activists and advocates whose efforts led to this change. “This is a positive step for all migrant workers in Korea,” says ATEK Vice President Darren Bean.The E-6 visa, ostensibly for entertainment workers, is also used as a visa for foreign women who come to South Korea to work — knowingly or duped — in the sex industry. In other words, if there ever was a group in South Korea that should be tested for HIV, this would be it.
I'm a believer that we should realize the fundamental differences between HIV in 2010 and in 1985 and recognize that it's now primarily a public health issue and not a human rights issue. Testing saves lives and prevents future infections, and I believe everyone should be tested — E2s, E1s, F4s, E7s, F2s, D8s, and ROK nationals — but to say that not everyone agrees with such an approach would be an understatement. E2 visa holders, coming from places like the US where 1 in 200 people are HIV-positive, might feel they are being discriminated against, and I'm sympathetic to that.
But for the love of God, can someone please explain to me the justification for removing sex workers from the required testing regime, why activists and advocates thought that was worth removing, and why ATEK is "applauding" that?