Free HIV treatment for asylum seekers and non-UK citizens
Asylum seekers and other non-British citizens are set to be given free HIV treatment after the government indicated it was willing to accept an amendment from Lord Fowler to the health bill.
Doctors working with people who have HIV have long argued that refusing free HIV drugs on the NHS to overseas visitors, including asylum seekers, is morally wrong and risks spreading the virus. Fowler, who chaired a House of Lords inquiry into the state of the HIV epidemic in Britain, nearly 25 years after he launched, as a Tory health secretary, the first major campaign warning of the the dangers of Aids, agreed with them.
His amendment to the bill will allow overseas visitors to be treated for HIV on the NHS if they have been here for six months. Experts believe the cost of providing drugs from a clinic will be far less than the possible costs of treating someone in hospital for Aids. The drugs also prevent new infections.
Ministers have indicated they will accept the amendment without a vote later this week. Anne Milton, the public health minister, said: "This measure will protect the public and brings HIV treatment into line with all other infectious diseases. Treating people with HIV means they are very unlikely to pass the infection on to others." Perhaps anticipating possible criticism from some sections of the press, she added: "Tough guidance will ensure this measure is not abused."
Professor Jane Anderson, chair of the British HIV Association – which represents doctors who have been placed in a dilemma by the current rules – said: "This is good news, both for people living with HIV and for public health in general. For too long access to treatment and care for some of the most vulnerable people has been compromised by the English charging arrangements.
"There is no ethical or economic reason to leave people living with HIV without appropriate treatment. Recent research shows that proper treatment can also reduce infectiousness and so stop other people becoming infected
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