Tuesday, 16 November 2010

My Man Ban Ki-Moon, He Got My Back.

Ban Ki-Moon has gone on record saying that Korea should scrap the mandatory HIV test for E-2 Visa English Teachers.



shotgunkorea said...

I think this is definitely a step in the right direction.

kushibo said...

I hope Ban Kimoon tries to do something about foreign students coming to America forced to get tested for tuberculosis before enrolling in school.

Man, mandatory testing for communicable diseases is so stupid!

Chris in South Korea said...

Big difference between TB and AIDS - one is far more communicable in common, everyday situations, and the other one requires doing like they do on the Discovery channel.

The concept of testing isn't flawed - it's the idea that people with a disease they're not to transmit to anyone during their usual working duties.

Still waiting for the first person to be 'released' from their job for AIDS to sue the crap out of the school.

Brian said...

No problem with testing, provided its done across the board, and not to just E-2 holders. Also, I could do without the ignorance that keeps the tests for E-2 visa holders in place.

kushibo said...

I wrote a response to Chris, and it even got mailed to me as a "follow-up comment," but I don't see it here. Hmm...

Roboseyo said...

Blogger can be quirky in the commenting department. I have 5 day automatic moderation on, and sometimes they take a while to show up.

kushibo said...

I'll just try to repost it in two parts...

Chris in South Korea wrote:
Big difference between TB and AIDS - one is far more communicable in common, everyday situations, and the other one requires doing like they do on the Discovery channel.

I give you bonus points for citation of a clever song from the 1990s, but respectfully, I disagree about them being so different.

First off, while tuberculosis may be more communicable in everyday situations, HIV makes up for its less communicable situation by being more deadly.

Second, sexual activity is a common situation, even if it doesn't necessarily happen every day.

The primary difference is in the social and political backing of HIV- and AIDS-related topics. Rather than a public health issue, it is treated like a human rights issue.

kushibo said...


The case in point is one such example. In supposed pursuit of fairness, instead of requiring testing for everyone (or pushing for the ROK government to pay for the testing) and/or ensuring inclusion in the ROK govt's extensive HIV treatment program of foreign nationals who learn they are HIV-positive while living in South Korea, this campaign opted for dismantling HIV testing for all groups, including sex workers. A bogusly applied notion of "Human rights" trumps public health concerns.

In one of the studies Ben Wagner cites [I've removed the link to get this past moderation, but it's entitled "Current Status and Future Projection of the Spread of HIV/AIDS"], the authors say that legally requiring HIV-positive people to inform their sex partners of their status is a "serious human rights violation."

Back in the US, gay rights groups are trying to force the Red Cross to end its lifetime ban on MSM (men who have sex with men) from donating blood. This is far and away the highest group in terms of HIV risk, for whom the possibility of donating blood in the window between HIV infection and HIV antibody detection looms much larger, but in the interest of "human rights" they want to upend the safety regimen for the blood supply. (By the way, Mad Cow concerns mean if you lived in England at a certain time, you can't donate blood in the US.)

It is high time we rip the band-aid off this sore that's been festering since the 1980s and start treating HIV infection like we do tuberculosis or hepatitis.

kushibo said...

One more very important similarity between tuberculosis and HIV is that both diseases can now be treated effectively if caught in their early stages (HIV is a death sentence otherwise). And both can spread to others if those who are already infected are not educated properly about controlling their own condition.

Considering this, it is dumbfounding that those calling "human rights abuse" in regards to mandatory testing of any group fail to consider those inconvenient facts. Where there's no legal mechanism, supporting infrastructure, or funds available, then voluntary testing is your best bet. Korea's case is wholly unlike that, which is why I believe universal testing for everyone, including ROK nationals, is the best move.

Until that time, though, I as a foreign national find nothing wrong with universal testing of people choosing to come to Korea and live there beyond a tourist visit. Comparing the US policy on TB, some East Asian countries whose citizens are required to get TB tests are up to eight times more likely than Americans to be infected with TB, hence the public health concern requiring all students from those countries to be tested. With HIV, the average American is thirty times more likely than the average South Korean to be HIV-positive. With any other communicable disease, this would be a no-brainer, but they're parsing like it's 1985, when the gay community in America and their allies rejected the demonization of gays that was concomitant with the eruption of the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s.

When they start making musicals about the spread of TB, let me know.

C.W. Bush said...

I was very pleased to read this. I have zero issue with testing, just a problem with it only being E2 holders.

Roboseyo said...

Yeah, Me too, CW. If everybody who works with kids did, I'd be OK with it.

The best line I've heard about HIV testing so far is from a buddy who spend years working for public health in the US: "It's not who you are, it's what you do"

I think public awareness about what transmits HIV, and how to protect it, as well as where to find anonymous testing clinics, is the area where Korea would do well to improve things.

The other danger of only testing a few groups is that people say, "Well, if the high risk groups are being tested, I'm probably good." and then go back to doing activities that actually put them in high risk categories.

In my opinion, the biggest thing working against really helpful and effective HIV policies and practices in Korea is the fact sex is still mostly a taboo topic: clinging to that "korea is a conservative country" illusion makes people embarrassed to talk or learn about it.

But really, The Grand Narrative is a better place to go have discussions about THAT - I'm nowhere near his level of knowledge about that topic.

kushibo said...

"It's not who you are, it's what you do."

Actually, who you do. For the most part.

In Korea, by the way, HIV is mostly transmitted through heterosexual contact, accounting for 60% of all male cases and 97% of all female cases.

We can raise HIV awareness by replacing "How do you do?' with "Who do you do?" in the classroom.

Roboseyo said...

I'm in, Kushibo.

I also try to bring the conversation around to sex as often as possible around my Korean friends, in order to help get rid of that taboo.


kushibo said...

Although I think a legitimate argument can be made that anyone dealing with kids should be tested (which would not necessarily cover all E2s), and I certainly think all sex workers should be tested, I am sympathetic to claims of unfairness if only E2s are tested.

(This is not necessarily discrimination, as the E2 visa is not established by race or ethnicity — many non-Koreans hold F-series visas and not all anglophone kyopo can get an F4 visa.)

But ask yourself, "Why are the E2s the only ones required to get HIV tested?"

That was not the design of the government, which originally required much broader testing. It is the result (but not the intention) of the groups trying to dismantle HIV testing for everyone.

Are they serving your interests? Are they serving the public's best interests?

By successfully pushing for an end to HIV testing for E6s, they've opened up a pathogenic Pandora's box. Is this in your best interest, in a nation where most HIV is transmitted through heterosexual contact?

Way back, groups like ATEK could have gone the other way, pushing for all groups to be tested. It seems to me they were wary of upsetting the F-series visa holders' apple cart, and so they didn't go that route. I could be wrong on that, but that was what I got from all the stuff that was written by and about ATEK and related groups.

Fair would be requiring F-visa teachers and E-visa teachers to all be tested for HIV and checked for criminal background, or to not do either at all. So since the F-series visa holders weren't going to have any of that, we've gone the other way, in the interest of fairness.

Does this serve your interests? Does this serve the public's interest?

Contrary to what some anglophone netizens believe, HIV-positive people in Korea do not have to wear a scarlet H on their clothing, although they must inform the people they have sex with of their status (another "human rights violation"). But they also get the full range of treatment to keep them healthy — for free.

To me, fighting for the right of all foreign national residents to be allowed into that care system would be a far better way to go. Along with, say, requiring the ROK government to pick up the tab for the initial HIV screening prior to entry.

And if getting pricked with a needle as part of your annual physical would be the price one pays, I don't think that's a bad thing.

Ask yourself, why did things get to where we are applauding our journey the lowest common denominator, no mandatory HIV testing for anyone, not even sex workers?

The Seoul Searcher said...

@kushibo... there are no sex workers in Korea, remember? The govt. can't make it mandatory to test workers in a profession that does not exist!

kushibo said...

I'm not sure what you're getting at Seoul Searcher. Government agency after government agency research, discuss, analyze, and theorize what to do about red-light districts, underage prostitution, HIV transmission among sex workers, etc., etc., often with considerable frankness and pragmatism. Despite its illegality, the government has largely treated non-underage prostitution as de facto legal, even requiring sex workers to regularly get tested and treated for STDs.

So did you mean someone like a student or someone told you there are no sex workers in Korea? The "no gays in Korea" meme gets a lot of traction, but I've never heard anyone who should be knowledgeable of such things say there were no sex workers in Korea.

At any rate, the government, myriad NGOs, and loads of others are keenly aware they exist.