HIV positive asylum seekers at risk from dispersal scheme

HIV positive asylum seekers are being put at potential risk by being dispersed despite government measures designed to tackle the issue, a charity claimed yesterday.

The Home Office changed its policy to allow medical staff to argue for transfers to be delayed last December, after doctors and charities voiced fears that disrupting treatment was putting asylum seekers in danger. 

The National AIDS Trust said there were “concerns” that asylum seekers were still being transferred when it was medically unsafe to do so because medical staff were unaware of the policy.

Officers working for the National Asylum Support Service, which decides whether to move an asylum seeker to another area under the dispersal scheme, now have to consult a patient’s treating clinician before moving them.

Caseworkers were informed of the change in a Home Office bulletin but the trust said the government did not consult medical staff.

The trust has now drawn up guidance for health workers on the changes together with the British HIV Association.

The guidance sets out how transfers should “normally” only take place if the asylum seeker is medically stable, if adequate notice has been given and there are satisfactory arrangements are in place for the safe transfer of care.

The Home Office said it was essential for Immigration and Nationality Directorate caseworkers to be made aware of HIV diagnoses in asylum seekers but could not comment on the claims that unsafe transfers were still taking place.

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