Wednesday, November 03, 2010

ATEK statement on change in HIV testing Rules

I received this last night, and I think ATEK has taken the right tack and tone here:

ATEK Applauds Korean Ministry, Congratulates Activists for Change in HIV Testing Rules

(Seoul, Republic of Korea) - Nov. 2, 2010
– The Association for Teachers of English in Korea (ATEK) applauds the Korean Ministry of Health and Welfare for its decision to remove mandatory HIV testing from the E-6 and E-9 visa requirements, and extends congratulations to the activists and advocates whose efforts led to this change. “This is a positive step for all migrant workers in Korea,” says ATEK Vice President Darren Bean.

In February 2009, ATEK and law professor Benjamin Wagner filed a complaint with the National Human Rights Commission of Korea regarding mandatory HIV checks for English teachers applying for E-2 visas, submitting complaints to the National Human Rights Commission of Korea. Since then, groups like HIV/AIDS Human Rights Solidarity Nanuri, and the Migrantsʼ Trade Union have done likewise. The public discussion of HIV testing in Korea that began with ATEKʼs campaign even featured UN Secretary General Ban Ki- Moon speak on the issue in January, praising Korea for lifting restrictions on people living with HIV.

Former ATEK President Greg Dolezal is also pleased . “Itʼs great that one of the first campaigns ATEK launched is having positive results for migrant workers in Korea.”

Professor Benjamin Wagner, who is not a member of ATEK, appreciates the progress that has been made. “ATEK kick-started the public discussion of this topic in Korea. Weʼre very pleased that this discussion has already led to a potentially positive outcome.”

According to United Nations HIV testing policy, “voluntary testing is more likely to result in behavior change to avoid transmitting HIV to other individuals.” The Korean Center for Disease Control and Prevention also recently suggested “that Korea needs to develop a method encouraging more people to take voluntary tests at public health clinics.” as well as public education about HIV and AIDS.

The new regulations should come with increased public education campaigns, because “The cure for fear of HIV and AIDS is not mandatory testing, but knowledge,” National Membership Officer Jeff Nunziata said. Nunziata is a former civil servant who worked in the field of HIV testing, counseling and education in Florida, USA. “Around the world, weʼve seen that when people understand HIV, they feel safer getting tested, and protect themselves and others more carefully.”

Robert Ouwehand, ATEKʼs National Communications officer, hopes the story is not finished: “ATEK is growing, and will continue to have an impact on this issue and others.” Though HIV is not transmitted through classroom contact, an HIV test is still required for the E-2 teaching visa which many ATEK members hold. One explanation offered for this is the idea that parents feel safer knowing their childrenʼs teachers have been tested for HIV.

“If parents want to be reassured about the people teaching their children, letʼs find practical ways to accomplish that,” says ATEK President JaeHee Oh. She invites everyone to join a discussion of ways to improve the education environment in Korea. With a network of nearly 1,300 members, “ATEK is positioned to find ways to build trust between teachers, students, and parents,” Oh said.

“We have teachers in every area of Korea, at every level of English education. We are ready to discuss, and give feedback about English education in Korea, and we have communication channels that can quickly reach many of the English teachers in Korea,” Communications Officer Ouwehand explained. “Let's talk about this, and find positive solutions to parentsʼ concerns.”

Anybody can join ATEK, and ATEK welcomes members all professions and nationalities. The Association for Teachers of English in Korea is an all-volunteer national support and information-sharing network for professional English teachers. Its stated mission is to improve the lives of teachers through online and human resources by developing partnerships with government offices, recruiters, employers, and other organizations.

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