376 sign ACT UP London’s open letter rebutting Farage’s comments about HIV and migrants

To read more see this Vice article – We Asked Foreign Born British HIV Patients About Nigel Farage’s ‘Health Tourist’ Comments

ACT UP London’s open letter – HIV treatment and migrants
– was launched last night (April 15th 2015), with 376 individual and 44 organisational signatures.

Signatories include Leanne Wood AM, Leader of Plaid Cymru, Nicola Sturgeon, Leader of the Scottish National Party and First Minister of Scotland, Natalie Bennett, the Leader of the Green Party of England and Wales, Willie Rennie MSP, Leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats and Naomi Long, Deputy Leader of the Alliance Party and Parliamentary Candidate for Belfast East.

 ACT UP London and we, the undersigned, are deeply concerned at the recent attempts made by Nigel Farage to spread misinformation about HIV for political ends. We call for the rights of people living with HIV to be respected and upheld, and for HIV treatment to be left out of the political fray.
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We call for Mr Farage to apologise for his factually inaccurate, and stigmatising, comments. During the leaders’ TV debate on 2nd April, Mr Farage claimed: “Here’s a fact…there are 7,000 diagnoses in this country every year for people that are HIV positive… 60% of them are not British nationals.” Mr Farage is entitled to his own opinions, but he is not entitled to his own facts. Each claim is false. Public Health England’s most recent figures show there were 6,000 people newly diagnosed with HIV in the UK in 2013, a decrease on the 6,250 diagnoses in 2012. [1] The ‘7,000’ figure was last true in 2008, since then the number has been steadily declining. The same figures show that 45% of people diagnosed with HIV in 2013 were born outside the UK, but the data does not tell us about the nationality of people diagnosed. It records only country of birth – being born outside the UK does not mean you are not a British national. [2] The average cost of treatment per patient per year is approximately £6,000. [3] Since an amendment to NHS Charging Regulations in 2012, HIV treatment has been available free to everyone in the UK who needs it, regardless of immigration status. This is because providing antiretroviral treatment for all people living with HIV greatly reduces HIV transmission, encourages earlier testing and health-promoting behaviours and keeps people living with HIV healthy, reducing additional healthcare costs. The Coalition government implemented this change because it saves money. Professor Dame Sally Davies, the Chief Medical Officer, explained the decision to provide free HIV treatment: “Effective treatment of HIV reduces its spread by up to 96 per cent . . . offering NHS treatment will encourage testing, resulting in fewer undiagnosed HIV infections and therefore ensuring that there is less chance of passing on infection to the wider population.”[4] Mr Farage claims that the UK’s policy on HIV treatment encourages so-called ‘health tourism’. There is no evidence to support this claim. The National AIDS Trust, in 2008, concluded there is no evidence that decisions to migrate to the UK are influenced by the desire to seek HIV treatment. This is further demonstrated by the significant average time lapse between arriving in the UK and seeking testing and subsequent treatment [5]. Some UK residents who are living with HIV are migrants. They are brought here by work, relationships, or education. Some are seeking asylum and fleeing persecution. They contribute to and are part of British society. Many came from countries that also offer HIV treatment and care. Many others acquired HIV in the UK, or were diagnosed long after arriving. Regardless, it is wrong to link HIV with immigration. ACT UP London and we, the undersigned, are concerned that Mr Farage’s attempts to link HIV with his policy on immigration, encourage further stigma and discrimination of all who are living with HIV, as well as migrants. We believe in respect and dignity towards people of every type – including people living with HIV wherever they were born. We believe that a society which provides healthcare to those that need it, without discrimination, and protects the rights of people living with HIV, is a better society for us all to live in. We, the undersigned, are committed to building an inclusive movement to take action to challenge discrimination and stigma, and to protect everyone living with HIV.

 

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