I received this email recently.
The Persons with HIV/AIDS Rights Advocacy Association (PRAA) in Taipei is calling upon the Taiwan government to review its discriminatory policy on the ban of foreign citizens infected by HIV.
According to the amended AIDS Prevention Regulation (APR), expelled foreigners can make a plea to the Department of Health (DOH), and theoretically, the deported would have the chance to re-enter Taiwan. But a recent case revealed the true colors of the DOH.
Rachel (pseudonym) married her Malaysian husband in 1997. To be domiciled in Taiwan, the Malaysian went through a health check at an officially designated hospital and was found to be HIV sero-positive. The couple were not around when the result came out. The police, nevertheless, felt free to share the information with Rachel’s colleagues. However, this was only the start of their nightmare.
In January 1999, Rachel sent a letter to the DOH to learn how to make an appeal. After three months’ waiting, the DOH replied that the administration would consider, on a case-by-case basis, the merits of granting re-entry. With the support of the PRAA, Rachel met the vice-director of the Center of Disease Control (CDC, under DOH), Ms. Hsu Hsu-mei in May, and was promised a careful review of her husband’s case.
However, three months later, the CDC issued an official reply: THEY HAVE NO JURISDICTION OVER THIS MATTER. THE APPLICANT SHOULD SUBMIT RELATED DOCUMENTS TO THE IMMIGRATION BUREAU.
After a chaotic period of boundary-defining within the health authorities, finally, Rachel’s plea was admitted in June 2001, when the CDC required all medical records of her husband to be examined by the Taiwanese consulate in Malaysia. Three times within four months, the whole application was repeatedly rejected on technical grounds, which invariably involved lengthy, bureaucratic interactions between the Foreign Ministry and the DOH. Eventually, when the meeting of the Re-entry Referee Taskforce of DOH took place on November 23rd, her plea was flatly dismissed, citing the absence of responsibility on the part of the Taiwanese spouse and the Taiwanese medical establishments, as decreed by item 14.1 of the APR.
Three principles were indicated by the DOH as the
criteria for the final decision of entry permit:
First, whether the patient would receive proper medical care; second, whether his/her entry would jeopardize the domestic prevention efforts; third, whether s/he would occupy the limited medical resources of the country. IN OTHER WORDS, THE IMPORTANCE OF FAMILY UNION AND HAPPINESS HAS NEVER BEEN TAKEN INTO ACCOUNT. In the mind of the bureaucrats, Persons Living with HIV/AIDS (PWAs/PLHAs) seem to be a bunch of people thinking only of themselves: Selfish, reckless, and definitely a financial liability. Clearly, the practices of the Taiwanese health authorities manifest a stark contrast with the statement issued by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS, August 1996), which pinpointed that: First, restricting freedom of movement based on HIV status alone is discriminatory in singling out HIV, as opposed to comparable conditions. Second, such a measure cannot be justified on public health grounds. And third, “human rights imperatives, such as a claim to asylum or family reunion, should prevail over economic concerns.”
In the United Nation (UN) publication “HIV/AIDS and Human Rights: International Guidelines,” the application of specific human rights in the context of the HIV/AIDS epidemic includes the right to marry, to found a family and protection of the family (paragraph 96), the right to privacy (particularly paragraph 99), and the right to liberty of movement (particularly paragraph 105 and 106). Although Taiwan is denied membership of the UN, the government has, over the years of exclusion, reiterated its commitment to complying with the UN standard of universal human rights. Indeed, when the incumbent president, Mr. Chen Shui-bian took office in May last year, one of his main pledges was to consolidate the domestic infrastructure of human rights principles. Against such a background, we find, therefore, the actions of DOH profoundly disturbing and stigmatizing in its blatant disregard of the values ostensibly embraced by the government. All in all, guidelines published by the UN are online and downloadable anytime for anyone – certainly including the DOH officials. Ignorance is simply no excuse.
In accordance with the tenet of human rights, we
- A comprehensive review of the rationale and
practicality of the current referee practice, which should lead to the establishment of a swift and user-friendly procedure to deal with re-entry pleas made by PWAs/PLHAs and their relatives;
- the renouncement of the guilt/blame doctrine
embedded in the item 14.1 of AIDS Prevention
Regulations, in favor of human rights guidelines as recommended by the UN;
- The participation of PWA/PLHA groups in the AIDS policy-making processes as well as taskforces
involving the interests of PWAs/PLHAs;
- Further human rights education for government
Persons with HIV/AIDS Rights Advocacy Association of Taiwan
Address: Suite 802, 8th Fl., No. 1 Taoyuan Street, Taipei, 100 TAIWAN