I’ve written before about America’s nonsensical ban on HIV-positive immigrants — a provision which puts the States in the illustrious company of such shining protectors of human rights as Libya and Iraq. Andrew Sullivan, a stalwart of the US political bloggosphere and an HIV-positive not-quite-immigrant, raises the issue again in an editorial in the Washington Post and on his blog. He’s concerned that current attempts to repeal the ban may be thwarted.
That would be bad for America — the country is losing out on potentially talented immigrants and entrenching its reputation for “do-as-we-say-not-as-we-do” foreign policy. But taxpayers in other countries, countries that don’t discriminate against immigrants because they’ve got a virus or against human beings because they can’t afford private health insurance, may be picking up the tab for this HIV-phobia.
The UK has seen a rash of new HIV diagnoses among young gay men; of new cases diagnosed since 2000, 28% have been “imported” by gay men infected elsewhere. Among heterosexuals, the proportion is above 80%. Many of these people, especially the younger ones, are language students who need to be in an English speaking country. Some may have preferred to study in the States. But because of the ban on immigration for HIV-positives, they won’t even apply for visas there.
I’m pleased that the UK welcomes all-comers. I’m pleased that the country cares for people who are sick or in need of care, regardless of what is in their wallets. I think that most immigrants contribute more to a nation’s economy than they take out of it, even if they are on expensive antiretroviral treatment. But it is nonetheless likely that UK tax payers are paying for HIV treatment for an ever higher number of people in part because no-one in need of treatment can go to the States.