Detainees ‘denied HIV medication’

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Campaign group Medical Justice reported last Tuesday that HIV-positive asylum detainees are being denied live-saving treatment.

It called on the UK Border Agency (UKBA) to end the detention of HIV-positive people after new research showed that most detainees assessed had been denied medication while being held.

More than three-quarters of deported detainees documented had little or no medication, a team of independent doctors found.

On one occasion UKBA attempted to deport an HIV-positive pregnant mother who had been given less than a month’s medication.

Many of the 35 men, women and children assessed are torture survivors from countries where rape is used as a weapon of war.

Medical Justice has been granted permission by the Court of Appeal to intervene in the case of three HIV-positive ex-detainees who argue their detention was unlawful due to a lack of proper treatment.

GP and HIV specialist Dr Indrajit Ghosh said: “UKBA claims that health-care in its centres is equivalent to that in the NHS, but the report shows that being in detention leads to a situation in which these patients cannot access proper medical care.

“In the case of HIV, this is a threat to the patients’ lives. HIV-positive people should therefore be released and properly cared for.”

Cardiff Lib Dem MP Jenny Willott added: “The clinical care in detention centres is currently so poor that it is a dangerous place for someone with HIV. Health and wellbeing is affected and lives are even being shortened. That is unacceptable.”

Director of detention services at UKBA Alan Kittle said it took its duty of care extremely seriously.

“As the Chief Medical Officer has confirmed, decisions regarding treatment and provision of anti-retroviral medication are entirely matters of clinical judgment for the NHS specialist HIV consultants and not UK Border Agency staff or its contractors, including removal centre healthcare providers.

“Individuals are assessed prior to their detention and continue to be treated throughout their stay,” he said.

“On removal, they are provided with a course of the relevant drugs the NHS specialist consultant considers to be necessary.”


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