Thursday, April 15, 2010

Free HIV Tests for Immigrants in Finland

The Finnish AIDS Council offered free HIV tests for immigrants and foreigners in Oulu and Helsinki, Finland on Monday April 12, 2010. The tests were anonymous and no prior time-booking was required - this means you could just walk into one of the Council's facilities and get tested. Results were available in 15 minutes. No doubt, free HIV tests for immigrants is good news! But, one question remains unanswered - why was the HIV testing explicitly reserved for immigrants?

In Finland, according to Helsinki Times - there are about 500 to 1,000 people infected with HIV, but are unaware of the infection. Mindful of the fact that the later the diagnosis, the less effective the treatment, HIV testing should be a matter of urgency! Common sense tells you that it is important for you to know your HIV status, so that you can commence treatment as soon as possible - if you are infected.

Correct me if I am wrong - every individual is vulnerable to HIV; not just immigrants. Limiting free HIV tests to immigrants and foreigners in Finland somehow sends across a different message. Are immigrants more vulnerable? Why should the Council target a particular group for HIV testing?

Has every Finnish citizen already been tested?

According to the National Institute for Health and Welfare, in 2009, there were 180 HIV cases in Finland, out of which 82 were foreigners. Could this be the cause for concern?

Before you jump into any conclusions, note that there are about 2,600 confirmed HIV infected persons in Finland and Finnish citizens account for more than half - about 1,800 of the confirmed cases.

As you'd expect, 80% of the confirmed cases in Finland were sexually transmitted.

Make no mistake about it - free HIV test for immigrants in Finland is a good idea. However, the goal of the free tests should be to identify and support immigrants infected with HIV. It would be dehumanizing if the motive is simply to obtain statistics; statistics that would further polarize the on-going immigration debate - which is already in a sorry-state, and expose immigrants to more discrimination and unequal treatment.


  1. Hi Zuzeeko and thank you for bringing forth an interesting question. Since you live in a country like Sweden, which has learned somewhat the fine art of not offending minorities, your concern is valid. As you mentioned, the problem is that it villifies a group (foreigners have HIV). This seems to be, unfortunately, too often the approach towards immigrants.
    I hope that we can hear more of you at Migrant Tales. Would you be intersted in writing something for us. I think it would enrich our blog tremendously since we'd see how things are done in Sweden, which already had a large immigrant population from the 1970s if I remember correctly.

  2. Of course, Enrique - I would be glad to write an article for Migrant Tales. Please keep the invitation open.


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