Asylum seekers should not be forced to take HIV test, say MPs

Edwin J. Bernard, Edwin J. Bernard
Published: 10 July 2003

The All-Party Parliamentary Group on AIDS have rejected the idea that mandatory HIV testing should be forced upon migrants and asylum seekers entering the UK in a report released today that damns current immigration policy as "negatively impact(ing) upon the physical and mental health of asylum seekers with HIV and increase(s) the risk to public health of HIV transmission."

The report comes at a time when there is growing media pressure to test migrants and asylum seekers for HIV in order to restrict access to NHS services, which are severely strained. Public opinion has been divided over whether HIV services are to blame for the NHS' problems, but many see asylum seekers as scapegoats. The Government itself announced in January that the Cabinet Office would be holding an inquiry into "imported infections" and would not be taking evidence from outside Government itself.

Hence the importance of All-Party Parliamentary Group on AIDS who took evidence from HIV clinicians, national AIDS organisations, community-based organisations and migrants living with HIV over four sessions in May this year.

They found that "widespread stigma" affects HIV since the end of ring-fenced money for HIV services within the NHS, and that HIV clinicians are being faced with the "ethical issue of whether to treat an individual with HIV in need or deny treatment if the person is not entitled" to NHS care.

The Group also made it clear that there was an "intrinsic link" between HIV on a global and national level and that "we can no longer presume that physical borders can protect one country's population from what is happening in the rest of the world." Rather than develop in isolationist stance, they argue that the Goverment should address the factors that "push people to migrate from developing countries: poverty, access to healthcare, conflict, the impact of environmental adversity and social exclusion."

The main conclusions of the report are as follows:

  • That the UK Government should support policies which encourage HIV testing for the purpose of ensuring more effective access to treatment and care, and it should not adopt a policy of mandatory testing upon entry.
  • The UK Government should not detain, solely for immigration purposes, individuals with serious communicable diseases if it cannot provide for their care inside removal centres.
  • The Government should develop and implement national best practice guidance on asylum seekers living with HIV that invovles both the NASS and Social Services repsonsibilities, including training for senior personnel in both agencies on how to monitor and maintain good practice; this includes a revision of the dispersal and benefits system.
  • The Government shold work to finalise the Doha trade negotiations with regard to international treatment access, to channel increased resources to health systems development in developing countries and increase long-term support to initiatives like the Global Health Fund.

A full copy of the report can be downloaded from: http://www.appg-aids.org.uk/publications.htm

Reference

All Party Parliamentary Group on AIDS Migration and HIV: Improving Lives in Britain July 10, 2003

Community Consensus Statement on Access to HIV Treatment and its Use for Prevention

Together, we can make it happen

We can end HIV soon if people have equal access to HIV drugs as treatment and as PrEP, and have free choice over whether to take them.

Launched today, the Community Consensus Statement is a basic set of principles aimed at making sure that happens.

The Community Consensus Statement is a joint initiative of AVAC, EATG, MSMGF, GNP+, HIV i-Base, the International HIV/AIDS Alliance, ITPC and NAM/aidsmap
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