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24 March 2009
Should we screen illegal immigrants and asylum seekers for HIV and Hepatitis viruses?

The answer is not an easy one and calls for a serious discussion at social, public health , ethical and political levels.  

Here follows a list of pertinent facts….

 

1)      It is widely known that there is a very high incidence of HIV (which leads to AIDS) and hepatitis virus in African countries.

2)      Many carriers of HIV and Hepatitis B&C viruses do not exhibit any signs or symptoms for many years leaving only a blood test as the only means of recognition of the carrier status.

3)      One cannot screen a person without his or her consent as this is unethical.

4)      It is on the other hand ethical that people who are known carriers of the said viruses  inform third parties who may be at risk to be infected by the viruses from them.

5)      Screening alone costs money and this can be borne by our country’s coffers or the EU’s (or both)

6)      Our country has its interests pertaining to the public health of our community.

7)      One test for HIV might not be enough and repeat tests might be necessary to exclude HIV infection.

8)      Children known to be HIV positive will find resistance from  parents of other children who might not want them to be in the same school as theirs’ even though there is ample proof that HIV transmission occurs only by sexual relations and direct blood contact.

9)      If immigrants are found to be HIV or Hepatitis B or C positive through screening ,our country is morally bound to give treatment for the mentioned diseases.

10)  The treatment is very expensive and in the case of HIV costs around Euro 500 per person per month perpetually.

11)  The treatment in both hepatitis and HIV might reduce the infectivity of the persons ie the chances that the person gives the virus to other people (involved in sexual relations or who come in direct blood contact).

12)  The life of the person who receives HIV treatment is often prolonged by many years but if the person stops treatment the virus will return as before.

13)  Not complying with HIV or hepatitis treatment as directed by the specialists can result in the emergence of resistant strains of the virus.

 

      …… The issue is debatable indeed!!

 


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