AIDS-Infected Asylum Seekers "Overwhelm UK Hospitals"
June 18, 2003
Hospital consultants said on June 15 that Britain's National Health Services are being overwhelmed by hundreds of AIDS patients from abroad, accounting for up to two-thirds of new HIV patients in the country. Treating infected foreigners costs about £15,000 (US$25,171) a year each and is putting hospitals into debt and threatening to halt routine operations for other patients, they said. A Commons report last week estimated that the figures for new HIV cases last year would more than double at 6,500.Adapted from:
Dr. Anne Edwards, a consultant with the Oxford Radcliffe NHS Trust, said: "Two-thirds of our new HIV patients are from abroad. We're in a crisis. We're now seeing a rise in local infection, which suggests that patients recently arrived in the country are having unsafe sex. We are seeing some heterosexual spread." Some of the patients were nurses brought over to work in NHS from countries with AIDS problems. "Our trust is in an enormous financial hole of around £20 million [US$33.5 million]. Not only do we not have enough money for our own population but we are having to treat lots of people from other countries."
Royal Leicester Infirmary figures show it has 241 HIV patients. More than half the men and 80 percent of the women have been resident in Britain for less than a year. More than half are claiming asylum.
Human rights legislation means that HIV-positive visitors to Britain from developing countries are entitled to stay indefinitely while receiving NHS care. The Home Office stipulates that they would be treated if there were no medical care for their condition in their own countries.
"We have moved from considering whether to introduce screening to what form it should take," said a senior government official recently. "We are drawing up a list of high-risk countries." But Trevor Phillips, head of the Commission for Racial Equality, said: "I can't imagine any British doctor would suggest that patients should be treated differently based on their origin. If there are budget constraints then a case needs to be made for more resources."
06.15.03; Francis Elliott; Daniel Foggo; Thair Shaikh