Canadian visa applicants no longer need to list AIDS status

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HIV-positive visitors to Canada are no longer required to disclose their medical status to get a temporary visa. Health advocates argued there's no reason for the federal government to collect the highly sensitive information.

The move comes after a foreign businessman infected with HIV complained that a Canadian consular official demanded he provide detailed information about his medical condition. He was planning a round trip to Canada for just a few days.

The announcement comes ahead of the International AIDS Conference in Toronto in the summer of 2006, easing fears that conference-goers suffering from the infection would be denied entry visas to Canada.

"Certainly it is very critical to the success of the International AIDS conference that the people living with HIV ­ whether from developing countries (or elsewhere) who are devastated by the disease ­ that their voices are heard in these international forums. We can't have a discussion in isolation without them," said Joan Anderson, a senior advisor to the Toronto Local Host, the non-government organization organizing the massive six-day summit.

However, there is still concern about the discretionary power of Canadian visa officers abroad who can order medical examinations if suspicions arise about the applicant's health.

Until last month those who had been treated for communicable and chronic disease were asked to disclose their related medical history and treatment in a temporary visa application.

The change brings the temporary visa application form in line with Canadian immigration policy that, in general, doesn't bar temporary entry to a person diagnosed with AIDS or the infection that causes it, HIV. The exception is if the government suspects short-term visitors could become very ill in Canada and cause a strain on the overloaded healthcare system. (Those applying for permanent residence must be tested for HIV.)