U.K. Should Not Implement Mandatory HIV Testing for Asylum Seekers, Parliamentary Report Says
July 17, 2003
Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report on July 11 mistakenly reported facts related to the issue of mandatory HIV testing for asylum seekers in the United Kingdom. The Daily Report, using information reported in an earlier edition, incorrectly reported as fact arguments put forth by supporters of mandatory testing. An updated and corrected version of the story appears below:
Mandatory HIV testing for asylum seekers upon entry to the United Kingdom would violate the country's human rights obligations and could deter those already in the country from undergoing HIV testing, according to a report released on July 10 by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on AIDS, Reuters reports. The 175-member group launched an investigation in response to concerns that the government was not properly consulting refugee groups in its probe of the public health risks posed by immigrants (Reuters, 7/9). Member of Parliament Neil Gerrard, chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on AIDS and the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Refugees, said, "We feel that the current government position on asylum seekers and migrants with HIV has been largely developed in response to reports based on fear and stigma rather than factual evidence." After hearing testimony and taking written submissions from a range of stakeholders, the group concluded that the current immigration system does not provide adequate access to treatment for HIV-positive people and that the government cannot deny individuals entry into the country on the basis of poor health. The group recommended that the government:
"It was felt that the U.K. government cannot look to exclude individuals on the basis of poor health," Gerrard said, adding, "Instead, we should be looking to address the factors which push people to migrate in developing countries: poverty, access to health care, conflict, the impact of environmental adversity and social exclusion" (BBC News, 7/10). The report notes that under the European convention on human rights, asylum seekers cannot legally be denied entry to a country on the basis of an HIV-positive test result. Other immigrants to the United Kingdom are just as likely as asylum seekers to be HIV-positive; therefore, immigration officials would have to test all of the country's 12 million visitors each year if the policy were to be anything but "blatantly discriminatory," the report says, according to London's Guardian. The report also warns that singling out HIV-positive people could discourage people already in the country from getting tested. According to officials, two-thirds of HIV-positive people in the country have not been diagnosed (Boseley/Travis, Guardian, 7/10). The government responded that it will not rule out mandatory medical testing for asylum seekers on arrival in the country, according to Home Office Minister Beverly Hughes, who added, "What concerns me is the underlying assumption that anybody with a significant illness -- as an asylum seeker or a migrant -- should automatically get treatment in London" (BBC News, 7/10).
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