Originally published on Advocate.com July 29 2004 12:00 AM ET
U.K. officials last week abandoned plans to make HIV antibody testing a requirement for all immigrants applying for visas to the country, the Observer reports. The government had considered testing all immigrants for HIV infection in an effort to stem a rising tide of HIV-positive immigrants who are overwhelming the country's National Health System, which provides HIV care. The country has to date spent about $1.8 billion treating HIV-positive immigrants from Africa, according to the group MigrationWatch U.K. But several leading government officials scuttled the plan, saying mandatory HIV testing would unfairly affect primarily Africans from countries with high HIV rates. They also said such a policy would force AIDS "underground" because immigrants and those seeking asylum would be afraid of being arrested or deported if they eventually sought HIV care in the country. Neil Gerrard, chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on AIDS, says the country should focus on urging all immigrants to take voluntary HIV antibody tests once they arrive in the country so that those who are infected can get into care before their conditions worsen and they require more expensive hospital services.
The United States bars entry for all HIV-positive people, including both immigrants and those intending to visit the country for short periods. However, the regulation is not uniformly enforced for short-term visitors.