UNHCR Launches Policy To Provide Refugees With Access to Antiretroviral Treatment
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has launched a new strategy aimed at ensuring HIV-positive refugees and other displaced people worldwide have access to antiretroviral treatment, care and support, IRIN News reports. The policy addresses both long-term and shorter-term antiretroviral provisions, such as post-exposure prophylaxis for sexual assault survivors and prevention of mother-to-child HIV transmission. According to the new policy, antiretroviral drugs will be planned for and included in the "earliest possible stages of an emergency response to forced displacement," IRIN reports. The strategy also outlines interventions for refugees who were receiving treatment in their home countries, those who were not on a regimen before displacement and those voluntarily returning to their home countries. In cases where repatriation is impending, refugees should be permitted and assisted to return to areas where they can access antiretrovirals, according to the policy. The policy also says that it is practical to provide access to antiretrovirals to refugees in the medium- to long-term because they often live for several years in somewhat stable environments, IRIN reports. "In certain situations ... the refugees have had difficulty accessing ARVs, and even those in urban areas sometimes failed to get treated within the national programs of the host countries," Paul Spiegel, UNHCR's senior HIV/AIDS technical officer, said, adding, "The way many of them have been accessing the drugs is innovative but has largely not been standardized." Spiegel said that UNHCR makes efforts to provide equal distribution of services to host populations. "We'd like to see refugees able to get the drugs the same way local populations do," he said, adding, "We are advocating for governments to include refugees' ARV needs in their proposals for funding" from the Global Fund To Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria" and other agencies. According to UNHCR estimates, refugees comprise between 25,000 and 35,000 of the nearly 6.5 million people worldwide who need antiretrovirals, IRIN reports (IRIN News, 1/29).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.