Labour warned to think again on compulsory HIV tests for immigrants

Michael Carter
Published: 04 January 2004

The UK government is being advised not to introduce compulsory HIV tests for asylum seekers and others seeking the right to permanently remain in the UK by a leading left-of-centre think-tank.

In a report, the Institute of Public Policy Research warns that such a move would be costly, divisive and counter-productive, driving those in need of HIV care underground.

Earlier this week the government announced its plans to charge non-UK residents for treatment for all non-infectious diseases as well as HIV. A decision on whether to introduce mandatory testing for immigrants is expected shortly.

Testing immigrants for HIV and other infectious diseases, such as tuberculosis became a political hot topic in late 2003, and Labour ministers are thought to have come down in favour of compulsory tests at the port of entry. The overwhelming majority of heterosexual HIV cases in the UK involve individuals who were infected with HIV in southern Africa and migrated to the UK. However, the majority of total HIV cases in the UK involve gay men.

In a statement Helen Crawley of the IPPR said: "The compulsory screening of asylum seekers for TB and HIV which is being proposed by some will have a limited impact on the spread of these diseases because screening for TB is ineffective and compulsion may push those carrying infectious disease underground."

The IPPR is urging the government to spend the money it would devote to compulsory HIV and TB tests to the control of these diseases in resource- limited countries. However, it does suggest that asylum seekers and migrants should be offered "welcome health checks."

A government spokesperson said that the review into compulsory heath checks were still being ongoing and aimed "to establish the facts".

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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