U.K. AIDS Group Protests Policy Denying Free Antiretroviral Treatment to Recent Immigrants
A United Kingdom government policy that prevents pregnant women who have been in the country for fewer than 12 months from receiving free medication to prevent vertical transmission is "inhumane" and costly, according to a British AIDS charity, Reuters Health reports. According to the Terrence Higgins Trust, individuals who have been in the United Kingdom for more than 12 months are entitled to free HIV/AIDS treatment, "whatever their immigration status." But HIV-positive pregnant women who have recently arrived in the United Kingdom "clearly" cannot wait that long to receive medications that would prevent them from passing the virus on to their infants, the group says. The organization cited two instances in which pregnant women from Africa were diagnosed with HIV while in the United Kingdom but were not offered free, ongoing antiretroviral treatment. Lisa Power, head of policy for the trust, said that some pregnant women who were denied free treatment at a hospital obtained it at other facilities, but health officials are unsure what happened to the women who were denied treatment. Power said that not providing HIV/AIDS treatment to pregnant women who have recently arrived in the United Kingdom is "illogical" because other sexually transmitted diseases are treated for free. She noted that the rules regarding treatment for recent immigrants were made "years ago" when there were "were no effective drugs for HIV/AIDS." The trust stated that drugs to prevent vertical HIV transmission only cost a "few" dollars while the lifetime health care costs for a child born with HIV could total $1.5 million. Adrian Palfreeman, a consultant physician and a member of the British HIV Association, said, "There is little point in offering somebody antenatal care and then refusing to give them the treatment they need to ensure they have a healthy baby. That is totally unethical" (Woodman, Reuters Health, 7/2).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.