Q: What's the toughest part about getting AIDS?
A: Trying to convince your parents you're Haitian.
Read a bit further and you'll see the relevance (and if the joke makes no sense to you, that should underscore my point about living like it's 1985).
Anyway, remember a few weeks ago, when I pointed out that E6 and E9 visa holders getting compulsory HIV testing lifted while E2 visa holders would have to continue with the mandatory testing was the result of two different government ministries making two different policies? [In case you're new to South Korea's visa regimen, the E6 is ostensibly an "entertainer" visa, but many of the people who get this visa are sex workers. ATEK, the Association of Teachers of English in Korea, "applauds" removing mandatory HIV testing for this group.]
At the time, I subtly hinted that the mandatory HIV testing requirement would eventually be lifted for E2 visa holders as well, and it appears that day may be sooner rather than letter. None other than the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban Kimoon, is pressuring Seoul to drop the tests:
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is urging South Korea to scrap a requirement that foreign teachers take an HIV test, an official said Tuesday.This, ladies and gentlemen, is what we call a globalism-enforced PC standard, and make no mistake, it will mean more people dying in South Korea. Based on the state of HIV and AIDS a quarter century ago, when most cases in the US were transmitted through homosexual contact, testing for this fatal disease became a privacy issue that was deeply enmeshed with gay rights. Today, however, HIV is manageable as a chronic disease if it's caught early, yet instead of treating HIV infection like tuberculosis, hepatitis, or prostate cancer, we still treat it in such a way that reduces the chance of survival of the already-infected and increases the likelihood of more new infections.
South Korea dropped a travel ban in January for most foreigners with the virus that causes AIDS, drawing praise from the United Nations. But it still requires foreign teachers, most of whom teach English, to take HIV tests. The ban is largely the result of pressure by parents.
In a meeting last week with Prime Minister Kim Hwang-sik in Seoul, Ban urged that the HIV test requirement be abolished, said Yoo Sung-sik, a spokesman for Kim. Ban, a former South Korean foreign minister, was in Seoul to attend a summit of the Group of 20 leading economies.
So why is ATEK applauding the removal of mandatory HIV testing for sex workers? In a country where 800 of the total 7800 confirmed HIV infections are foreign nationals (from places like the US, where 1 in 200 are HIV-positive), why is Ban Kimoon trying to eliminate HIV testing of foreign workers?
The answer is simple: HIV and AIDS are treated as if nothing has changed since 1985, when instead we should be treating this deadly infection primarily as a public health challenge, not a human rights issue. (And mandatory HIV testing is not the only public health arena where "human rights" are being used to trump legitimate public health concerns; there are groups trying to eliminate the ban on homosexual men from donating blood, a legally upheld prohibition aimed at preventing HIV transmission through blood transfusions by blocking the group of people with the greatest risk of HIV infection.)
This is being driven by a twisted sense of PC-influenced "fairness" and "equality" for foreign workers, when in fact most South Korean nationals are tested for HIV infection in some way and the government provides mandatory HIV treatment if they test positive. Late last year I asked what would be a fair policy for HIV testing in Korea, but what I had in mind then and now is something that applies fairness in the other direction:
- Mandatory testing for anyone with a visa that allows them to stay in South Korea beyond the period of a tourist visa (preferably in line with mandatory testing for all ROK nationals residing in South Korea as well).
- Deny long-term visa if they test positive (except for F-series family visas)
- Provide foreign residents who test positive during their residency in South Korea with the same comprehensive HIV treatment that ROK nationals would receive. Provide a long-term medical treatment visa for such individuals, if necessary.
Now I know mine is not a popular position, but calling mandatory HIV testing a human rights issue does not magically take the risk away. It could, however, remove the stigma. South Korea is in a unique position where (a) its infection rate is low and manageable, in part because of a high degree of testing, and (b) it provides comprehensive care to those who are infected, in a way that saves lives and prevents new infections. In other words, South Korea is poised to achieve an HIV-managed status, and it's in a situation where it's cost-effective to try to achieve that.
Why, then, are we trying to muck it up with a "human rights" approach to HIV testing that will lead to more HIV infections and more AIDS-related deaths?
This post from June 2009 discusses the notion, apparently misleading, that foreign nationals who test positive for HIV are all summarily deported.