Past regulations of forcibly deporting foreign nationals who have contracted HIV could be subject to change, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
The agency said it plans to cancel the enforced deportation and the regulation stipulating that all foreign nationals in Taiwan wishing to stay for more than three months have to be tested for HIV.
CDC Deputy Director Chuang Jen-hsiang (莊仁祥) said as of last month, the total number of HIV-positive individuals in the nation is 26,827, including 873 foreigners.
Chuang said that in a recent meeting with an HIV/AIDS expert, a consensus was reached to cease the practice of enforced deportation of foreigners that had contracted HIV.
The meeting also reached a consensus to slash Article 18 and 19 of the HIV Infection Control and Patient Rights Protection Act (人類免疫缺乏病毒傳染防治及感染者權益保障條例).
Article 18 of the Act currently stipulates that HIV antibody tests may be asked of foreign nationals who have entered or have resided in Taiwan for more than three months.
The article says if test results are positive, visas, permits or residencies would be revoked, followed by immediate deportation.
It states that foreign nationals forced to leave Taiwan by Article 18 may apply, once per quarter, for a short-term visa lasting no longer than 14 days.
There are rare exceptions to this policy: Article 20 states that foreign nationals who were infected by spouses who are Taiwanese nationals, or who were infected while receiving medical care in Taiwan, and who have relatives within two degrees of kinship who have household registration and current residency in Taiwan may ask those relatives to prepare a written petition — only once — within six months of their deportation.
In terms of medical care, Chuang said the rate at which HIV/AIDS cases increases outpaces public funds set aside to treat patients, adding that the government’s National Health Insurance incurred NT$600 million (US$2 million) in debt treating HIV/AIDS patients.
Chuang said that while HIV-positive foreign nationals would need to pay in full for their medications, HIV-positive Taiwanese nationals would see a reduction in medical coverage, whereas currently they receive full coverage.
Chuang said that the plan is still in the works and the Ministry of Health and Welfare should be consulted for further information on the planned amendments.
Commenting on the CDC’s planned changes, Persons with HIV/AIDS Rights Advocacy Association of Taiwan social worker Yeh Chia-yu (葉珈語) said that Taiwan is one of only 40 countries that still choose to deport HIV-positive individuals.
While saying that it supports the CDC’s plans to change the policy, the association also expressed concern that the removal of Articles 8 and 19 from the Act might have consequences for disease prevention.
The association suggested that the CDC keep the clause that foreign nationals need to provide HIV test results upon entry, but the results need not be given to customs.
In other words, the association is suggesting that customs, the National Immigration Agency, or the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, should not use HIV test results as a reason to restrict the coming and going of foreigners.