A leading charity has said the government is not doing enough to help asylum seekers who are living with HIV or AIDS.

 Crusaid revealed that 55% wait more than four years for a Home Office decision on their right to remain. During this time, many of them will lack the basic facilities to maintain their health.

The figures, contained a report sponsored by GlaxoSmithKlein’s Positive Action programme Poverty Without Borders, were released at Crusaid’s second HIV and Poverty conference earlier this week.

Speaking at the conference Neil Gerrard MP, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary group on Refugees, said:

“I think it is really striking – the change over the years of the number of people who are coming to the Crusaid Hardship Fund who are also in the immigration system.

“This degree of poverty is astounding. Fifty five percent is a shocking percentage and included in that would be people who even according to the regulations as tough as they are, should be getting health care.”

The National Audit Office announced this week that asylum applications were taking even longer to process, despite a government pledge to cut turn-around times.

Poverty Without Borders found that the vast majority of asylum seekers living with HIV and AIDS are unaware of their status before they reach this country.

Crusaid said that living in uncertainty and with a new diagnosis, this group can face serious health deterioration whilst they are unable pay for the necessities that would keep them fit.

“I’m afraid, sadly that there is evidence that people who suffer from stigma and discrimination do experience it from healthcare professionals,” said Mr Gerrard. 

“We are told that this doesn’t happen, but there is evidence that it does. It’s a general problem and it’s not fair to say that it’s out there in the public and the health system is fine, I’m afraid that’s just not the case. There’s a real need for education for people working in healthcare.”

The Crusaid Hardship Fund supports some of the most vulnerable people in the UK today living with HIV and AIDS, many of whom have no recourse to any public funds, or the right to work and earn a living.