Free HIV Treatment for Foreigners
Foreign visitors to the UK are due to be offered free HIV treatment from National Health Services (NHS). This is the first time the treatment has ever been offered for free and comes as ministers back calls for non-British residents to be treated for the condition as part of an effort to protect the wider public. Among those anticipated to benefit from the move are victims of human trafficking, workers and students.
The Department of Health says that precautions will be imposed to prevent “health tourism”. HIV treatment is currently only available to official residents in the UK, excluding migrants. However, former Conservative Cabinet minister Lord Fowler, who has campaigned for AIDS, has called for treatment to be offered to people who have been in the country for six months.
This proposal was in an amendment to the Health and Social Care Bill and will be accepted by the government. However, it will be imposed in a Statutory Instrument rather than as a part of the legislation. The decision comes as people are concerned about increasing cases of HIV and the costs burdening the NHS for not treating it soon enough. It believed that foreigners are discouraged from seeking help due to how much the treatment costs.
Anne Milton, the Public Health Minister, says that the measure will protect the public and brings the treatment of HIV in line with other infections diseases. It will mean people are very unlikely to pass the infection to others, and tough guidance will make sure it’s not abused.
Professor Dame Sally Davies, the chief medical officer, says that effective treatment of HIV reduces its likelihood of spreading by as much as 96%. This move is in line with recommendations from the UK Chief Medical Officers’ Expert Advisory Group. Offering the treatment will encourage testing to lessen the number of undiagnosed infections, which will ensure the chances of it passing on to the wider population is lessened as well.
British HIV Association (BHIVA) chairwoman Professor Jane Anderson says this is good to hear for people living in Britain who have been diagnosed with HIV. It’s also good for the general health of the public. Research shows that proper treatment stops others from becoming infected and reduces infectiousness. This decision will save lives and improve the quality of life of those who have previously been shut out from proper treatment.