Mar 22

Many HIV-positive people held in immigration detention in the UK receive substandard healthcare, involving forced treatment interruptions, inadequate clinical investigation and breaches of confidentiality. Moreover, people are removed from the UK with inadequate supplies of antiretroviral medication or against medical advice.

In a report released yesterday, the charity Medical Justice catalogued significant failings in the treatment of 35 people whose cases were brought to their attention. However as 29 of the 35 cases relate to one particular facility (Yarl’s Wood in Bedfordshire), it is possible that problems are localised rather than consistently experienced by immigration detainees.

The UK Border Agency (part of the Home Office) oversees ten Immigration Removal Centres (IRCs). They are prison-like structures, used for detaining people whose asylum claim is being considered, those whose claim for asylum has been refused and migrants who the agency intends to remove from the country.

Like prisoners, immigration detainees are entitled to receive healthcare that is ‘equivalent’ to that normally available through the NHS; this is an ‘operating standard’ for the private companies that run IRCs on behalf of the government.

Primary healthcare is provided within an IRC by private contractors. They should facilitate access to HIV treatment and other secondary care which is provided by local hospitals.

In 2009, the British HIV Association (BHIVA) and National AIDS Trust (NAT) produced advice on providing HIV care in immigration detention. They aimed to outline steps that should be taken to ensure that care is indeed equivalent to NHS provision.

However the UK Border Agency does not accept that their advice is policy which it must comply with. Moreover Medical Justice (a charity focusing on healthcare for immigration detention) is concerned that the BHIVA / NAT advice is not being consistently implemented. Their report describes numerous breaches of the advice.

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Tags: Care , Hiv Care

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