Last week I went to the launch of ‘Returned to Risk’ a report by the Human Rights Watch on the deportation of HIV-Positive migrants. It was held by the All Party Parliamentary Group on HIV and AIDS at the House of Common. The report highlighted the unfair treatment of HIV positive migrants, not only in the UK but all over the world.
In Saudi Arabia, for example, all migrants are compulsory tested for HIV. If they are positive they are imprisoned and then deported without provision of care. This is done not only with HIV-positive people, but also with those infected with Hepatitis C, B or TB.
South Africa has also a really poor record of treating immigrants. Often migrant mine workers are deported without treatment if found HIV – positive or with TB. They are viewed as a disposable asset. Even if it is against the young South African constitution. At the moment there is an estimated 3.000.000 Zimbabwean refugees in South Africa. 17.000 get deported back to Zimbabwe every month. One wonders how many of those forcefully sent back are positive, how many of those will die because of lack of access to medication?
At the meeting there was also a courageous Malawian woman, Ivy, currently living in the UK and expecting to be deported soon. Ivy is on third line HIV drugs, which are impossible to find in any developing country. She voiced her fear and anger at the prospect of being returned to a place where she will not find the medication she is on and will probably face illness and death. Ivu has been volunteering for a number of organizations and charities in the North West of England contributing to our communities for the past 6 years. The home office told her “Go and continue your good work in your country”.
The Human Right watch states in this report: ‘ The principle of non-refoulement, articulated in refugee and human rights law, establishes an absolute prohibition on the forced departure of a person to another state where there are substantial grounds for believing that the person would be in danger of being subject to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment’
However the UK government is obviously not listening, because while it preaches its commitment to the Millenium Development Goal of Universal Access to HIV Treatment, it still doesn’t guarantee HIV treatment to failed asylum seekers in the UK, and deports people with HIV to countries where they will most certainly die because of the lack of appropriate medical care.
It was great to see that discussion on this crucial issue for people living with HIV was brought up, especially in a site as the House of Common. However I was quite disappointed by the fact that those who attended the meeting were the usual people from the HIV sector. Once again we were preaching to the converted. If we want to move forward in securing access to HIV treatment for all in the UK we must work harder to reach those who are not already on our side. How can we do this?