John Howard, the hardline Prime Minister of Australia, has suggested that HIV-infected migrants or refugees be banned from entering the country.
Howard's tough stance over immigration of the HIV-infected comes in the wake of reports that the number of newcomers carrying HIV into the state of Victoria has more than quadrupled in the past two years.
Health Department records show the number of HIV-positive people arriving from overseas and interstate has jumped from 16 in 2004 to 70 in 2006, newspapers said.
Predictably the Prime Minister's reaction came in the course of an interview to a radio station during a visit to Victoria.
It is located in the southeastern corner of Australia. It is the most densely populated and urbanised state in the country.
For Australia as a whole too, the HIV infection has been rising alarmingly, by as much as 41 per cent between 2000 and 2005. Besides the disease is raging in neighbouring Pacific countries like Papua New Guinea.
Prime Minister Howard likened his proposal for a ban on the entry of the HIV-infected to the current prohibition against the entry of patients suffering from tuberculosis.
Though Victorian officials also talk about the spread of infection by those coming in from other parts of the country too, Howard has chosen to target immigrants alone, it has been noted.
Even otherwise, all permanent visa applicants aged above 15 are currently screened for HIV and then decisions are taken on a case-by-case basis.
The Immigration department takes into account the impact on public health consequent on the entry of people with ailments. Even diabetics are denied visas on such considerations, it is pointed out.
But then federal laws would have to be amended to prevent the HIV/AIDS infected from entering the country.
Australia's Health Minister Tony Abbott has asked the National Health Protection Committee to consider framing national guidelines to deal with the HIV positive persons.
Only last fortnight a man in Victoria was ordered to go on a trial for allegedly infecting two persons with HIV and attempting to infect another 16.
The total number of Victorians newly diagnosed with HIV was 264 last year, up from 206 the previous year.