HIV-specific Czech visa restrictions

As of June 1, 2009, when applying for a work or residency permit in the Czech Republic, one has to enclose a medical certificate to prove that the applicant is not suffering from syphilis, tuberculosis, and is not HIV-positive. This new regulation does not uniformly apply to all countries; Congo, Kenya, Moldavia, Mongolia, Nigeria, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, the Ukraine and Vietnam are among the countries the regulation specifies.

Countries applying entry restrictions on people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) justify their regulations by arguing that PLWHA are a danger to public health (via spreading the disease), a burden for health care budgets, and that, due to their short life expectancy, they cannot contribute to the society. Basically this mentality reflects the view that HIV-infection is coming from abroad, and it is important to stop it at the borders. At present there are 70 countries in the world, among them 17 European Union members, that apply some kind of entry or residency restriction for HIV-infection.

In Hungary certain medical certificates, including an HIV-test, are required when applying for a permit of stay longer than 1 year. In case of a positive test result, based on the recommendation of the Office of the Chief Medical Officer of Hungary (ÁNTSZ), the application can be rejected. Certain politicians and even experts repeatedly call for stricter regulations. Namely, András Pettkó of the Hungarian Democratic Forum (MDF), last summer called for stricter regulations, specifying that visitors from a third country (non-EU countries) should provide a negative HIV-test when applying for a visa for a period over 90-days.

In reality, these restrictions are not justified. Those countries that have a ban on entry or residency of PLWHA have not been able to stop the spread of the virus, and those countries that apply no restrictions have neither reported a boom in the number of HIV-infections nor have their health-care service systems collapsed due to the increased burden.

The truly effective tools in the fight against AIDS are not stigmatizing foreign citizens living with HIV/AIDS and banning them from entering our country, but informing the public and the youth, and supporting harm-reduction programs (syringe and needle exchange programs, substitution therapies) and vulnerable groups (MSM, sex-workers). The Hungarian National AIDS Strategy, which was developed by the Hungarian National AIDS Committee, includes these methods, but up to this day, none of its goals have been achieved. There are practically no information campaigns or campaigns to promote HIV-testing. The support of NGOs, working in HIV-prevention is essentially equal to zero. Effective steps with the inclusion of civil organizations and organizations of PLWHA are needed if Hungary is to maintain its present favorable situation.

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