Charging for HIV treatment is danger to public health say MPs

A protester holds a rainbow flag outside the Houses of Parliament in central London on June 3, 2013, as protesters gather in support of same-sex marriage

A committee of MPs and peers has called on the government to stop the NHS charging migrants for HIV and maternity treatment.

The report from the Joint Committee on Human Rights has been welcomed by HIV charities.

In a wide-ranging examination into the treatment of asylum seekers in the UK, the committee examined the decision in 2004 to introduce charges for NHS care for failed asylum seekers and others without lawful residency status.

MPs and peers found that the government was in breach of its human rights obligations by charging pregnant women for treatment.

The committee also concluded that on grounds both of common humanity and public health, HIV treatment should also be free of charge for as long as the failed asylum seeker remained in the UK.

Other important recommendations include a right of access to primary care for failed asylum seekers and the requirement to conduct both race equality and public health impact assessments of the charges, which were introduced on the basis of no evidence of need or possible effect.

Deborah Jack, Chief Executive of the National AIDS Trust, said:

“The National AIDS Trust is very pleased to read the clear and forthright recommendations of the Joint Committee on Human Rights.

“We have always argued that charging the most vulnerable and destitute in our society for HIV and maternity care was inhumane, a danger to public health and a breach of human rights.

“The joint committee has now strongly endorsed this position. It is time for the Government to do the right thing and acknowledge that whilst people remain in the UK, the Government has responsibility for their basic health and welfare.”