The National AIDS Trust has responded to the Queen’s Speech by urging the government to pay more attention to the needs of people living with HIV.
Gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men (MSM) continue to be disproportionately affected by the spread of HIV; accounting for almost half of all new cases. It reached an all-time high in 2011 with 3,010 cases reported in the group.
At the heart of Wednesday’s Queen’s Speech, a new Immigration Bill was unveiled to regulate migrant access to the NHS.
But the National AIDS Trust (NAT) criticised the government’s focus on curbing “health tourism” and warned that it could make it harder for migrants to receive HIV tests and treatment.
NAT Chief Executive Deborah Jack said: “The government has provided no evidence of the ‘health tourism’ which the restrictions on migrant access to the NHS outlined in today’s Queen’s Speech are meant to address. In relation to HIV treatment, we know that claims of ‘health tourism’ are completely unfounded.
“Our research has shown that migrants living with HIV are, on average, in the UK for five years before they are even diagnosed. Far from being motivated by a desire to access health services, the government’s own research found that asylum seekers did not have any detailed knowledge of the NHS before coming to the UK.”
Ms Jack added: “A universal health service is a really important weapon in the battle against HIV in the UK. Many migrants already struggle to register with a GP and access healthcare. Further restrictions will make it even less likely that they are offered the HIV testing and treatment they need for their own health and that of the wider community.”