Free HIV treatment on NHS for foreign nationals

Combination HIV drugs Ministers say treating people with HIV means they are unlikely to pass the infection on to others

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Foreign nationals are to be offered free treatment for HIV on the NHS under plans backed by the government.

Campaigners say the move in England will reduce the risk of Britons being infected and cut the costs of more expensive later treatment.

Currently only British residents are eligible, which excludes migrants.

The Department of Health said it would bring England into line with Scotland and Wales, and there would be safeguards against "health tourism".

Extend treatment

There are an estimated 25,000 people with undiagnosed HIV in Britain, many of whom were born abroad.

People from overseas cannot be treated for the condition unless they pay, which is not the case for other infectious diseases.

This group of people includes failed asylum seekers, students and tourists.

Conservative former cabinet minister Lord Fowler, who headed the government's Aids awareness campaign in the 1980s, has called for an amendment to the Health and Social Care Bill currently before the Lords.

This would extend free treatment to those who have been in Britain for six months.

The proposal will be introduced by the government in a Statutory Instrument rather than as part of the legislation.

'Good news'

Public Health Minister Anne Milton said: "This measure will protect the public and brings HIV treatment in to line with all other infectious diseases. Treating people with HIV means they are very unlikely to pass the infection on to others."

Yusef Azad, director of policy at the National Aids Trust, said: "If someone is tested and treated early, it is much cheaper than them presenting themselves in hospital with a much more serious, complex condition that can cost tens of thousands of pounds to treat."

Professor Jane Anderson, chairwoman of the British HIV Association, said: "This is good news for people living in the UK who are HIV positive and also for public health in general."

Critics claim the decision could prompt so-called health tourism and put the NHS under further financial pressure.

But the government pledged tough guidance to ensure the measure is not abused.

The Department of Health said it would be difficult for somebody to come to the UK specifically for treatment as the process took months to administer and monitor.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 715.

    HIV treatment is expensive and there have been many arguments on the cost of the drugs, so now in a time of cutbacks and reductions in funding we are going to treat the world at our expense, they say there will be safeguards against health tourism, but they don't collect the money that is owed at present. Many come to this country already infected knowing they will get treatment and not pay for it

  • rate this

    Comment number 672.

    HIV is the biggest killer of women of child bearing age in the WORLD! A large part of this problem is through lack of education and lack of choice with regards to contraception. I am not sure this proposal is the answer but some of the responses on here turn my stomach. What is our society turning into? We should refuse entry to anyone who has or is from a country at risk?! Wow that's depressing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 667.

    This is making everyone safer. Treatment for HIV greatly reduces the transmission rate. A policy that ensures that any people with HIV are getting treated and reduces the risk of them passing it on to others sounds like a good thing to me.

    While the risks of infection for most people are very low, noone who ever has unprotected sex, even in a "monogamous" relationship, is completely risk free.

  • rate this

    Comment number 324.

    My GP displays a poster showing drugs to avoid to cut costs. The hospital I work in asks patients to bring their own medications with them. We run 'stop smoking' clinics but can't prescribe the patches for patients who want to quit.
    It all seems a bit much when we offer free tests for non-British people instead of making them prove they are HIV free before they get a visa to enter our country.

  • rate this

    Comment number 293.

    Health tourism is a real issue in the uk and if you work in a surgery you will see how many foreigners come, then being their family's of which many have chronic conditions, diabetes, chd and they then get free meds for life. I don't blame them, it's the governments fault who allow this and now they shout about giving foreigners free aids treatment.. Those that never paid tax here in first place


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