The legislature’s Social Welfare and Environmental Hygiene Committee yesterday approved a series of draft amendments to 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), aiming to put an end to controversial regulations that deport foreign nationals who have contracted the virus.
Under the current law, foreigners who have been in Taiwan for more than three months are required to be tested for HIV/AIDS and those whose results are positive for the sexually transmitted disease are to be deported.
Only three types of people are allowed to file an appeal to return within six months of their deportation: Those who were infected by spouses who are Taiwanese nationals; those who contracted HIV while receiving medical care in Taiwan; and those with relatives within two degrees of kinship who have household registration and currently reside in Taiwan.
If the amendments pass their second and third readings, Taiwan would be eligible to be removed from UNAIDS’ list of 18 countries that, as of August last year, deport HIV-positive individuals.
Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Deputy Director-General Chuang Jen-hsiang (莊人祥) said that since 2007, only 48 foreigners with HIV/AIDS have been permitted to return to the country following successful appeals, and that there are less than 20 HIV-infected foreign nationals currently awaiting deportation.
“Nevertheless, that does not change our HIV prevention protocols, which require medical institutions to report any person found infected with the virus before the centers step in to determine the source of infection and offer necessary medical information,” Chuang said.
The amendments also include a policy that entitles medical personnel, police officers and firefighters to forcibly subject individuals to HIV screening if they have been involved in an accident that could have exposed them to the virus, such as needlestick injuries or cuts from surgical instruments.
Medical practitioners are also allowed to order HIV test on unconscious patients without their consent and on newborns without their mother’s consent if the situation is deemed “medically urgent.”
In addition, starting in 2017, the cost of drug treatments for HIV/AIDS patients who have been receiving medications for two years or longer would be covered by the National Health Insurance (NHI) program rather than the CDC, should the amendments clear the legislative floor.
“Currently, all the medical costs of HIV patients, which are so substantial that the CDC has been left in the red every year and has run up NT$6 billion [NT$188.37 million] in debt to the NHI Administration, are shouldered by the centers,” Chuang said.
Chuang said that the change would not greatly impact patients, who would continue to pay the NT$200 minimum cost of a hospital visit.
Persons with HIV/AIDS Rights Advocacy Association of Taiwan secretary-general Ivory Lin (林宜慧) lauded the preliminary passage of the draft amendments.
“The enforced deportation of HIV-infected foreigners has been in place since the government introduced its first law on AIDS in 1990. We have waited nearly 25 years to see changes happen,” Lin said.
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