Official: UN Chief Asks South Korea to Lift HIV Test Requirement for Foreign Teachers

During a visit to South Korea last week, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon asked Prime Minister Kim Hwang-sik to end HIV testing requirements for foreign teachers. In January, South Korea lifted travel bans for most non-nationals with HIV/AIDS. Ban, a former South Korean foreign minister, spoke with Kim during a visit to Seoul to attend a summit by the Group of 20 leading economies.

South Korea has previously faced calls to protect foreign workers from discrimination. Most people still required to be screened for HIV are English teachers, reportedly because of pressure from parents.

Kim told Ban he will review the request carefully, said Yoo Sung-sik, the minister's spokesperson.

If a foreign teacher tests HIV-positive, the South Korean government reports the results to their employer. Employers usually cancel the teacher's contract, which voids the teaching visa essential for staying in South Korea legally, according to the Education Ministry. The teacher then has to leave the country immediately.

South Korea had recorded about 7,800 HIV/AIDS cases by 2009, according to its disease prevention and control agency. The actual number of HIV infections could be much higher, as many people fear testing due to HIV-related stigma, experts say.