Britain’s Asylum-Seeker Policy May Lead to Increases in Number of HIV Cases, Interruptions in Care, Study Says
Britain's policy of relocating people seeking asylum there from London and Southeast England to other parts of the country may lead to an increase in HIV transmission, interruptions in antiretroviral drug therapy and compromised HIV/AIDS care, according to a study published in the July 26 issue of BMJ, London's Guardian reports (Meikle, Guardian, 8/6). More than 100,000 people have been transferred under the U.K. National Asylum Support Service policy, which was instituted in 2000 to redistribute the cost of medical care (Birmingham Post, 8/6). It is unknown what percentage of the people relocated under the policy are HIV-positive, but many come from countries with HIV/AIDS epidemics, according to the study (Reuters, 8/5). Sarah Creighton of the department of genitourinary medicine at the Camden Primary Care Trust and colleagues sent questionnaires to 75 leading doctors in sexually transmitted disease clinics throughout the country and received responses from 56 doctors (Creighton et al., BMJ, 7/26). Nineteen of the doctors said that the government had moved patients against medical advice. Many reported that asylum seekers were given short notice -- sometimes only 48 hours -- before being moved and sometimes their medical records were not transferred, according to the study. Only three of the 56 doctors reported the appropriate transfer of care for dispersed HIV-positive people (Guardian, 8/6). The researchers said, "Inappropriate dispersal of an HIV-infected patient could lead to HIV resistance, onward transmission of HIV infection and avoidable morbidity and mortality for the asylum seeker." The researchers concluded that the National Asylum Support Service should seek specialist advice before dispersals and consider the impact on the clinic in the area to which the person is being moved, the Post reports (Birmingham Post, 8/6).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.