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COOK ISLANDS PM’S HIV COMMENTS ‘DISAPPOINTING’ Puna muses about quarantine, deportation of infected foreigner

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (Radio New Zealand International, Jan. 10, 2011) – Statements by the Cook Islands Prime Minister appear to cast doubt on the government’s position on the first HIV positive case in the country.

Last week Health Minister Nandi Glassie said that after seeking advice the government would not identify the first person to test positive for HIV in the Cook Islands.

But now Prime Minister Henry Puna has told the Cook Island News that while the government will accept the advice of the National HIV committee not to identify the person at this point in time, the case for protecting the public is equally compelling.

Mr Puna says HIV is not a curable disease and practical questions need to be asked such as whether quarantining the person would ensure they do not infect other people.

He also says there are grounds for deportation because the individual - who has been identified as a foreign worker - is not clear of HIV which is a condition of entry.

The Cook Islands Family Welfare Association says the reported statements by the Prime Minister are disappointing.

The association’s executive director Rongo File says she’s very concerned about the impact they would have on the HIV positive person, their family, and those that work in the area.

"With all the work we’ve actually done and the awareness we’ve run in the community and getting people to have a better understanding about the stigma or discrimination against people who have HIV, I thought we would get a better response from those who are in leadership," says File. "Obviously he has not had much information given or not been briefed of the impact it has with that comment."

Cabinet is expected to be briefed on the case this week.

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