New law took effect October 1st allowing everyone in England, regardless of immigration status, to obtain free treatment for HIV and AIDS; prudent public health measure should also aid ‘treatment as prevention’ strategy
WASHINGTON (October 9, 2010) – AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) today lauded the government of the United Kingdom for a groundbreaking new law that allows everyone in England, regardless of immigration status, to obtain free treatment for HIV and AIDS. The prudent public health measure, which took effect October 1st, should also greatly aid the efficacy and expansion of the ‘treatment as prevention’ strategy for HIV prevention in the country. That widely-respected strategy is based on the idea that the greater the number of HIV-infected individuals who are on HIV/AIDS treatment, the less likely they will be to pass on their infections to their partners, as the presence of the virus in their system may be reduced enough to render them non-infectious because of the anti-retroviral medications they are taking to suppress their HIV.
According to a news item on PlusNews (October 8, 2012), “Every resident in Britain contributes to the National Health Service (NHS) through their taxes, and gets free treatment. People without residency have to pay for treatment, with two exceptions: Cases of accidents or emergencies, where everyone receives free treatment from hospitals, and cases where serious infectious disease could be passed on to members of the public. But while treatment for STIs like syphilis and gonorrhoea fell under this latter category, treatment for HIV and AIDS did not….This has changed, and HIV is now eligible for free treatment.”
“This is a tremendous move forward, and a great example of a sensible and prudent public health policy for the world to follow,” said Michael Weinstein, President of AIDS Healthcare Foundation. “In order to break the chain of infections in the AIDS epidemic—or in any epidemic or disease outbreak, really—we must identify those who are infected, treat them and link them into longer term care and treatment as needed, as in cases of HIV infection. This will be vastly easier to do in England now that anyone, regardless of his or her immigration status, is able to access lifesaving antiretroviral treatment. It is a great day in the fight against AIDS in England and beyond, and British leaders involved in passing this law deserve kudos for their efforts and vision.”
The PlusNews article noted that the people most likely to benefit from this new law include, “…people living there without proper documentation, including illegal migrants, those who have overstayed their visas, and asylum seekers whose claims have been turned down but who haven’t left the country. Many are members of the African diaspora, a community with a relatively high rate of HIV infection and a lot of issues over visas.”
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AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), the largest global AIDS organization, currently provides medical care and/or services to more than 183,000 individuals in 27 countries worldwide in the US, Africa, Latin America/Caribbean, the Asia/Pacific Region and Eastern Europe. To learn more about AHF, please visit our website: www.aidshealth.org, find us on Facebook: www.facebook.com/aidshealth and follow us on Twitter: @aidshealthcare.