Nigel Farage just won’t stop talking about ‘foreigners with HIV’

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Nigel Farage has repeated his claim that the NHS shouldn’t treat “foreigners with HIV” – despite his previous statistics being proven to be false.

The UK Independence Party Leader was originally met with hostility during last month’s ITV Leader debate when he claimed that “foreigners with HIV” were causing a funding crisis within the NHS, and that there have been “7000 diagnoses” with “60% from non-British nationals”.

Despite condemnation for his original comments – and comprehensive proof his statistics were untrue – Mr Farage repeated his claim tonight during the BBC Leaders’ Debate.

He said: “The point is health tourism costs up a very great deal of money. People in government have to make tough choices.

“If the choice is we increasingly say to people, particularly older people, ‘we cannot treat you for breast cancer, we cannot treat you for prostate cancer, we haven’t got the money’, whilst at the same time we allow people to fly into Britain who have got no link to Britain and contributed nothing to this system… we’re prepared to give them the drugs for being HIV positive.

“You then get yourself to a situation where you ask yourself ‘is the job of the health service to look after people here, or to be an international health service?”

Despite repeating his claim, Mr Farage did not repeat the numbers he cited in his original remarks, which have been proved to be drastically inaccurate and comprehensively debunked since.

The BBC’s statistics show More or Less looked into the numbers last week – and found that Mr Farage’s original stats were incorrectly interpreting figures, based on data many years out of date, and failing to take into account basic considerations like people contracting HIV while living in the UK.

His numbers also did not reflect the fact that treating people with HIV reduces transmission to British nationals – reducing the overall cost either way.

Tonight’s debate marks the second time Mr Farage has repeated the claim in as many days – parroting the already-debunked stats at UKIP’s manifesto launch yesterday.

Dr Shaun Griffin of the Terrence Higgins Trust wrote of his previous comments : “The statistics quoted by Mr Farage are incorrect. The latest annual HIV report from Public Health England showed that of the 6,000 people who were diagnosed with HIV in the UK in 2013, 38.2% were born in the UK, 44.8% were born abroad, and 17% did not have their country of birth recorded. For MSM 76% of HIV infections were estimated to have been acquired in the UK. The equivalent figure amongst heterosexual men and women is 57%.

“Free access to HIV treatment and care not only prevents HIV-related deaths and lengthy hospital stays but also reduces onward HIV transmission. The average annual cost of treating someone with HIV is between £8,000 and £12,000 a year not £25,000. This cost is offset by the number of infections prevented by providing treatment to those who need it.”

He added: “Comments like those we saw in the debate from Nigel Farage do great damage to these efforts. We need to take an inclusive approach to HIV, provide treatment to all who need it and prevent further transmission wherever possible.”

One of the party’s former Tory MPs, Douglas Carswell, has repeatedly declined to back Mr Farage’s stance on the issue.

When asked which kinds of people should be allowed to enter the UK in October, Mr Farage said: “People who do not have HIV, to be frank. That’s a good start.”