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NHS to Offer Free HIV Treatment to Foreign Nationals Under Amendment to Health Reform Bill

Posted on the 28 February 2012 by Periscope @periscopepost
NHS to offer free HIV treatment to foreign nationals under amendment to health reform bill

HIV & AIDS support ribbon. Photo credit: Ted Drake,

The controversial Health and Social Care bill is in the headlines once again. The NHS is to offer free HIV treatment to non-UK citizens, including tourists, asylum seekers and students, after the government backed an amendment to the bill from Lord Fowler. Currently, free treatment is only available to British residents; the amendment will extend this to cover overseas visitors who have been in Britain for six months.

According to the BBC, the Department of Health said that the move would bring England into line with Scotland and Wales, where free treatment is already available to non-UK citizens, and that safeguards would be in place to prevent “health tourism.” But not everyone backs the amendment.

Government, not charity. “I find it hard to believe that someone as intelligent as Lord Fowler would not foresee that offering this treatment may well encourage people suffering from this illness to come to this country,” wrote Ed West on a Telegraph blog. According to West, this is evidence of the dangerous belief that the UK government can act like a charity instead of the bureaucracy it really is: “Until we get this idea out of our heads Britain will remain broke, economically and socially.”

Move welcomed. Chair of the HIV Association Professor Jane Anderson welcomed the amendment, telling The Guardian: “I am delighted that Lord Fowler has finally won the argument on this point. It’s a decision that will certainly save lives and improve the quality of life of many who were previously shut out from appropriate treatment.” And The Guardian reported that public health minister Anne Milton pointed out a wider benefit of extending free treatment: “Treating people with HIV means they are very unlikely to pass the infection on to others.”

‘Health tourism’ unfounded. “Amid fears of ‘health tourists’ heading to the UK for free treatment, campaigners have pointed out that the existing rules in Scotland and Wales have not had a noticeable effect,” wrote Stephen Gray for PinkNews. What’s more, Lisa Power of the Terrence Higgins Trust pointed out that the move could actually save the NHS money, Gray reported: “Leaving people without treatment also means the NHS pays far more further down the line when someone’s health fails and they need emergency care.”

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