Connect to share and comment

Britain to offer HIV treatment to foreign nationals under its health care system

The British will amend the Health and Social Care Bill to include HIV treatment for foreigners.

Aids britain 280212Enlarge
People light candels under a giant red ribon, the symbol of "love and care" for HIV and AIDS carriers worldwide, at a gathering. Britain is planning to extend its free HIV treatment services to foreign nationals. (Dominique Faget/AFP/Getty Images)

Britain is amending its health care bill to offer free HIV treatment to foreign nationals, BBC News reported.

Supporters of the move to extend HIV care say it will reduce the risk of Britons being infected and cut the costs of more expensive treatment later, BBC reported. Foreign students, workers, asylum seekers, and victims of human trafficking are among those who are expected to benefit from the bill, the UK Press Association reported

"If someone is tested and treated early, it is much cheaper than them presenting themselves in hospital with a much more serious, complex condition that can cost tens of thousands of pounds to treat," Yusef Azad, director of policy at Britain's National Aids Trust, told the BBC. 

More from GlobalPost: World AIDS Day: Obama pledges $50 million towards domestic treatment and clinics

Treatment of other sexually transmitted infections, as well as tuberculosis and malaria, has been free for everyone, regardless of official National Health Service (NHS) regulations. With this amendment, HIV treatment would be provided in the same way, as long as the person seeking treatment has been in the UK for at least six months, National AIDS Manual (NAM) reported

Lord Fowler, a conservative minister who chaired an inquiry into Britain's HIV epidemic and campaigned about the dangers of AIDS, is one of the key forces behind the bill, the Guardian reported

"I am delighted that Lord Fowler has finally won the argument on this point," Professor Jane Anderson, chair of the British HIV Association, told the Guardian. "It's a decision that will certainly save lives and improve the quality of life of many who were previously shut out from appropriate treatment."

More from GlobalPost: Opinion: Defending the NHS

Critics argue that decision could prompt so-called health tourism and put the NHS under further financial strain, but Britain's Department of Health has said it would safeguard against people taking advantage of the system, the BBC reported. 

“This measure will protect the public and brings HIV treatment into line with all other infectious diseases. Treating people with HIV means they are very unlikely to pass the infection on to others," Anne Milton, Britain's public health minister and a former nurse, said in a statement. “Tough guidance will ensure this measure is not abused.”

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/health/120228/britain-NHS-hiv-treatment-foreign-nationals