In March of this year we shared the the news that Asylum Seekers and other non-British citizens were to be given free HIV treatment after the government indicated it was willing to accept an amendment from Lord Fowler to the health bill.
That removal of charges for undocumented migrants and non-UK citizens accessing HIV treatment and care in England comes into effect today. From now on, HIV treatment will be provided free of charge to all who need it, regardless of citizenship or immigration status.
The move was first announced in February and the relevant legislation passed in June. Health ministers have justified the change on the grounds of public health, pointing to the impact that HIV treatment has on onward transmission.
Although it was initially proposed that free HIV treatment should only be available to people who have been living in the UK for more than six months, this requirement has not been retained in the legislation.
While treatment in HIV clinics will always be free of charge, migrants living with HIV who need hospital treatment for another health condition, such as diabetes, heart disease or cancer, or who require antenatal care, may still be subject to charging regulations.
Moreover, the rules have only changed in England. In Scotland and Wales, although charges for HIV treatment have not been levied or actively pursued in recent years, the legislation still states that HIV treatment may be chargeable. In Northern Ireland, the legislation still states that HIV treatment may be chargeable, and these regulations have sometimes been rigorously enforced.
The National AIDS Trust (NAT) has called for a formal change in the law in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, to ensure that free universal access to HIV treatment is guaranteed across the UK.