Online Program

Mandatory HIV Testing for Foreign Nationals in the Republic of Korea: Human Rights Violations and Bad Public Health Policy

Wednesday, November 4, 2015 : 8:30 a.m. - 8:43 a.m.

Jessica Keralis, MPH, Center for Analytics and Decision Support, Texas Health and Human Services Commission, Austin, TX

HIV-based legal and policy discrimination persists around the world. Many countries have overt HIV-related travel and immigration restrictions; others allow in-country policies to persist that violate their international human rights commitments. Such restrictions have been universally acknowledged as ineffective public health policy and a violation of human rights.

The Republic of Korea (ROK, or South Korea) has committed to ending discrimination against HIV and, in 2012, announced that it had eliminated all HIV-specific travel restrictions. However, official policies and widespread employment practices directly contradict this. Verification of HIV-negative status is officially required to obtain and renew E-2 (English teaching) visas, and other immigrants are often compelled to test by their employers as well. Those who test positive are immediately detained and deported. Several individuals have challenged ROK’s anti-HIV policies with mixed success. Most recently, a New Zealand national filed a complaint in 2012 with the UN CERD after legal challenges within ROK failed; the ruling will be delivered this May.

This presentation will examine the history of legal and policy-based HIV discrimination against foreign nationals in the ROK against the backdrop of an exceptionally conservative society which is largely ignorant of HIV and places a high value on racial purity and blood nationalism. It will analyze the impact of these policies on public health and the spread of HIV in ROK, with a particular emphasis on the dearth of epidemiological research of HIV transmission and infection rates among foreigners. Finally, it will discuss the UN CERD ruling, and how this and future advocacy efforts might be used to improve policies and combat discrimination targeting HIV in ROK.

Learning Areas:

Advocacy for health and health education
Other professions or practice related to public health
Public health or related laws, regulations, standards, or guidelines
Public health or related public policy

Learning Objectives:
Explain the Republic of Korea's (ROK) history of HIV discrimination, with a specific focus on how it has been used against foreign nationals. Demonstrate how current mandatory HIV testing for work visas is used as a proxy for racial discrimination against foreign nationals in ROK. Examine the available information on HIV testing requirements and figures among foreign nationals. Discuss recent legal challenges to mandatory testing, particularly the UN CERD case, and how these can be leveraged to improve the current policies regarding HIV testing for visa applicants.

Keyword(s): HIV/AIDS, Immigrant Health

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have been active in global health and human rights advocacy for six years, through the International Health Section of APHA as well as projects with NGOs and humanitarian journalism organizations. Furthermore, I lived and worked in the Republic of Korea from 2012-2014 and have first-hand experience with the issues discussed herein.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.