Three reasons why Nigel Farage is wrong on HIV and immigration
Like many people I was alarmed this morning to hear Nigel Farage’s comments to Newsweek and on the radio about not letting migrants with HIV into the UK. What he has said, and how he responded when challenged about these positions, shows a disturbing lack of knowledge about the reality of HIV today.
1. HIV is not a ‘life threatening condition'
For people living in the UK, HIV is a long-term manageable condition. It is true that if someone lives with undiagnosed HIV for several years and/or cannot access treatment, they will become ill. However, treatment is extremely effective and someone who is diagnosed with HIV in a timely way can now expect to live as long as the rest of us.
2. People living with HIV do have ‘trades and skills’
I can’t believe I feel like I have to say this, but people living with HIV contribute fully to our society - just like any other group of people who happen to have a health-condition in common. People living with HIV work in every industry and profession, give their time in voluntary and community work and do valuable caring work for their children, parents, partners, families and friends. (Yes, just like everyone else).
As well as being wrong, it is offensive to people living with HIV in the UK to know that Mr Farage thinks of them as nothing more than a cost to the NHS.
3. HIV border controls don’t work
International experts are in agreement: HIV travel bans do not work and do more harm than good. They are such a bad idea that “eliminating travel restrictions” is actually one of UNAIDS ten goals for HIV policy and programmes. This is because they don’t protect public health and yet they do prevent people from accessing the healthcare they need and they do waste resources which could be invested in tackling HIV locally.
Countries which have previously had restrictions are lifting them (13 in recent years), and to date there are 139 countries worldwide with no HIV-related travel restrictions.
The UK has never had border controls for people living with HIV. We should be proud to know we resisted any pressure to do so early in the epidemic. It would be simply ridiculous to consider a change now, against international trends.
This UNAIDS infographic shows the international trend away from travel restrictions – and what company we would be in if we were to introduce an HIV travel ban in the UK for the first time. http://www.unaids.org/en/resources/infographics/20120514travel/
I am alarmed that I feel I need to explain these things today, in 2014. Attitudes like Mr Farage’s should have disappeared in the 1980s, and thankfully they mostly have.
There are still significant gaps in public knowledge around HIV and negative attitudes and stigma refuse to die. This is why our HIVAware website addresses the most common facts and myths about HIV. If only Mr Farage had done his own fact-checking before dragging out such out-dated views.