Should HIV Positive Individuals Be Allowed To Enter Australia?

In one of my posts I talked about the the reliability of the HIV tests. The criteria used is different for different countries.

Recently, there is been much debate in the media about whether or not HIV positive individuals should be allowed to enter Australia. I also visited some PNG discussion websites, for example, pngscape, and noted that this topic was hotly debated.

Back to the issue of testing for HIV. There are two tests for determining if a person is HIV positive or not. The first, called an ELISA test, is used for screening. If it is negative, no further test is done. If the ELISA is positive, then a confirmatory test is required. The confirmatory test is called Western blot. Read about this two tests here.

The problem with the confirmatory test is that, the criteria used is different for different countries. The test is generally said to be unreliable but because there is no other better test than the Western blot, it continues to be used. In-fact, Great Britain do not use this test anymore since 1992.

The Western blot test looks for antibodies against 4 HIV molecules. In Australia, you have to have ALL 4 antibodies present to be CONFIRMED HIV positive. The ELISA is just for screening so really it is useless on its own! In Papua New Guinea, I do not know the criteria for the Western blot test. I can however, confidently say that is probably not the same as Australia. And I also think in PNG you do not have to have all 4 antibodies present when tested with the Western blot. I admit, I do not know the criteria ( a failure on my part) but I am sure it may be similar to some African countries where you need to have only 1 or 2 antibodies when tested with Western blot.

As a result, the issue of whether HIV positive individuals in PNG should be allowed to enter Australia is a tricky one. Here is why. If an individual is tested to be HIV positive in Port Moresby (on Western blot not ELISA) but does not has clinical AIDS, that person is TECHNICALLY NOT POSITIVE IN AUSTRALIA! Because the criteria to be confirmed HIV positive in Australia is different.

Therefore that person should be allowed to enter Australia. Because, the Australian High Commission in Port Moresby will use the Australian laws to grant a visa, not Papua New Guinea’s laws.  


About rodney itaki

Medical doctor and public health specialist from Papua New Guinea.
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