UK government ordered to rethink policy on milk tokens for asylum seeking mothers with HIV

Keith Alcorn, Keith Alcorn
Published: 31 July 2002

The High Court ruled on Monday that the Home Office must rethink its policy of denying milk tokens to mothers who are seeking asylum in the United Kingdom. The ruling followed an appeal by a mother with HIV who was seeking asylum in the UK, and who was denied milk tokens that would have allowed her to buy formula milk. Mothers with HIV are advised to avoid breastfeeding wherever possible in order to reduce the risk of HIV transmission to their child.

The High Court ruled that the Home Secretary had ignored the risk that the mother, who was unable to afford to buy formula milk, could pass HIV to her baby through breastfeeding. The Court ordered the Home Secretary to reconsider his decision and refused to grant the Home Office leave to appeal.

Mothers receiving income support are entitled to milk tokens during pregnancy and for children under the age of five. Asylum seekers are not entitled to income support and cash assistance is significantly less than income support rates.

The Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG), which backed the mother’s appeal, has welcomed the Court’s decision. CPAG’s solicitor, Sarah Clark, who represented the mother, said:

"We are delighted by the High Court’s ruling. The Home Office’s refusal to provide milk tokens has exposed babies to the very real risk of HIV infection. The ruling means that other mothers in a similar predicament should get the same help."

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

This content was checked for accuracy at the time it was written. It may have been superseded by more recent developments. NAM recommends checking whether this is the most current information when making decisions that may affect your health.

NAM’s information is intended to support, rather than replace, consultation with a healthcare professional. Talk to your doctor or another member of your healthcare team for advice tailored to your situation.