The Prime Minister of Australia has been forced to abandon plans to refuse entry to HIV positive migrants and refugees.

A government spokesman has said that the commitment made by John Howard will be “quietly dishonoured,” after he came under fire from HIV/AIDS groups.

The HIV/AIDS Legal Centre said that HIV positive patients were already barred from entry into Australia in most cases, as was anyone else with a chronic medical condition who could be a drain on the system.

The centre slammed Mr Howard for comparing HIV with tuberculosis, an airborne disease which is more easily passed on.

A spokesman for the centre added that Mr Howard’s comments could be in breach of Australia’s anti-discrimination legislation.

He said: “He should be investigated as making comments capable of amounting to vilification.”

Government officials defending the Prime Minister said he had spoken without thinking.

An advisor said: “This is one of the rare occasions when he’s said something that’s got him into strife.”

Don Baxter, the head of the Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations, said there was very little evidence that HIV positive migrants would pose a risk of spreading the disease.

Mr Baxter said that modern HIV treatments mean most patients would be productive, taxpaying members of society, and would not be a drain on the system.

The Prime Minister was also slammed by state AIDS bodies and HIV medical specialists.

PinkNews.co.uk reported last week that during a radio interview Mr Howard said he would like to take “more counsel”, and then consider ways to tighten existing regulations.

He said: “I think we should have the most stringent possible conditions in relation to that nationwide, and I know the health minister is concerned about that and is examining ways of tightening things up.”

Mr Howard’s comments were in response to reports that 70 of the 334 new HIV infection cases reported in the state of Victoria in 2006 were among immigrants.

The Prime Minister is an opponent of gay marriage and other rights for gay couples.

The full edition of this story will appear in the next BNews, available from http://www.BNews.net.au