Law on foreign HIV patients revisited

By Alison Hsiao  /  Staff reporter

Wed, Jun 26, 2013 - Page 4

The Department of Health is considering amending laws on HIV patients that require foreigners to leave the country if they test positive for HIV, in accordance with two international human rights covenants ratified by Taiwan.

As of the end of last month, 26,050 HIV cases had been reported in Taiwan since 1984, of whom 861 were foreign nationals, according to the Centers for Disease Control’s monthly report on HIV.

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) states that non-Taiwanese who test positive for the virus must leave the country, with their visas or permits of stay or residence revoked or annulled.

Centers for Disease Control Deputy Director-General Chou Jih-haw (周志浩) said the revisions were still being discussed and researched, but the direction is “to allow foreign patients diagnosed with HIV to stay, but they will have to shoulder the medical expenses themselves.”

According to Article 20 of the act, only those who have been “infected by their native spouses or infected through the process of receiving medical care in the country,” and citizens without household registration, but with “relatives within the second degree of kinship who have household registration in Taiwan” are allowed to stay in the country if infected.

There are currently 43 patients belonging to the above-mentioned category, according to the CDC, and their medical bills, as with those of Taiwanese nationals with HIV, have been covered by the government.

“These patients who have been treated in Taiwan will be allowed to continue to stay in Taiwan with the government paying for the treatment,” Chou said, citing the legal principle of non-retroactivity.

However, when asked whether foreign nationals who have been infected by Taiwanese spouses or through receiving medical care in the country and who were diagnosed with HIV after the law has been amended would be covered, Chou said no definitive answer could be given yet.

“Ninety percent of the annual NT$3 billion [US$100 million] budget for AIDS/HIV prevention and control programs is spent on medication,” Chou said, adding that the government wants to reduce its costs.