Asylum seekers with HIV face double discrimination

Asylum seekers living with HIV in Britain are facing double
discrimination as a result of their race and illness, according to
a new report, writes Clare Jerrom.

“Someone who is Black, seeking asylum and living with HIV may
have to contend with very complex – and very visible –
prejudice and discrimination,” the report from HIV and AIDS charity
Terrence Higgins Trust says.

‘Prejudice, discrimination and HIV – A
Report’, finds that HIV positive people in Britain fear
rejection from friends and family and difficulties at work to the
extent where they conceal their HIV diagnosis for fear of the

The situation is exacerbated for asylum seekers living with HIV:
“There is evidence to suggest that a number of people with HIV do
not use certain care and support services because they fear
discrimination from the organisations themselves, on the grounds of
their race or sexuality, or on the grounds of their perception of
those agencies’ core audience,” the report says.

The charity makes a series of recommendations and calls for HIV
prevention information targeting Africans, black people and asylum
seekers to be produced.

Terrence Higgins Trust urges HIV information providers to
African people in the UK to produce material, which states their
medical and legal rights if diagnosed with HIV.

The research highlighted many Black people seeking asylum were
worried about what “the home office would do to them” if their HIV
status was revealed, and many were uncertain whether they could
receive medical care.

According to Sasha Acimovic, health policy advisor at the
Refugee Council, asylum seekers with health problems believe that
their claims would be rejected: “They do not know how the system
works, and don’t know how to challenge it or where to go

A spokesperson from the home office said that all asylum seekers
are eligible for treatment from the NHS.

But, as Acimovic says, asylum seekers’ main priorities are
support and accommodation, and often they will not seek health
services until they are forced to through illness: “There
isn’t a procedure that systematically introduces asylum
seekers to the NHS.”

“Asylum seekers have many difficulties in accessing appropriate
health care, and these difficulties are particularly significant
for asylum seekers who are HIV positive. Health authorities need
appropriate strategies to ensure that asylum seekers have access to
health services, including primary care,” she adds.

Acimovic believes there should be an appropriate way to screen
asylum seekers to ensure their health care reflects their own

“We also need to see health professionals being given access to
training and to interpreters so that they can understand and
support the needs of patients from different cultural backgrounds,”
she said.

“Health promotion programmes targeted at specific groups of
people, including asylum seekers, must also be a priority,” she

The report, ‘Prejudice, discrimination and HIV – A
Report’ from 020 7831 0330.




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