Challenge to South Africa's Policies on HIV-Infected
October 1, 2009
A new report urges South Africa to reconsider its policy of deporting migrants infected with HIV and other life-threatening illnesses.
In "Returned to Risk: Deportation of HIV-Positive Migrants," Human Rights Watch, Deutsche AIDS-Life, the European AIDS Treatment Group, and the African HIV Policy Network document the "expulsion of HIV-positive foreigners" who do not have access to antiretroviral treatment (ARVs) in their home countries. In some instances, migrants have been left at the border, without any treatment or referral, by the government or by employers.
"Such conduct can amount to a death sentence," the report states.
Siobhan McCarthy, spokesperson for Home Affairs, said her department does not test deportees for HIV, diabetes, cancer or other terminal illnesses. Further, she said, being HIV-positive does not mean a deportee is sick. "A deportee who is too ill to travel will be hospitalized and given treatment until they can travel," she said.
South Africa is home to some 6 million foreign nationals, many of whom are undocumented migrants from countries with grossly inadequate health care. The country also has the world's largest HIV/AIDS caseload, with some 5.7 million South Africans infected. Of these, 1.8 million are expected to need ARVs by 2011.
"Few people come to South Africa to get such services but they should be entitled to them. Unfortunately, far too many foreigners and South Africans remain without care," said Loren Landau, head of Witwatersrand University's Forced Migration Studies Program.
The report's authors are considering taking court action to stop deportation. If successful, the legal challenge could have serious consequences for South Africa's health care infrastructure and various departments' budgets.
Business Day (South Africa)
09.28.2009; Wilson Johwa
This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.