Why NAT will still be walking at Pride
Since the news that UKIP LGBT will be part of this year’s Pride parade, NAT has been asked whether we would consider boycotting the event, where we are a regular feature.
We can understand why some people might feel like doing this, following comments made by Nigel Farage during the election campaign about HIV treatment access for migrants (although with UKIP’s only MP recently calling this comments “wrong on so many levels”, it is not clear what UKIP’s actual policy is on this issue – if there is indeed a policy).
NAT will campaign for as long as it is needed to achieve truly equitable treatment access for everyone living with HIV, regardless of migration status.
We worked steadily for eight years to end the practice of charging certain migrants thousands of pounds a year for the life-saving treatment they needed.
In 2008, we published the first evidence base showing that HIV health tourism is completely and comprehensively a myth. We have been constantly updating the evidence, ever since – check it out next time you need to fact-bomb someone on social media.
In 2012, we drafted an amendment to the Health and Social Care Act which meant that HIV treatment would be provided free on the same basis as all other sexual health treatment. This amendment was championed in the House of Lords by Lord Norman Fowler, and accepted by the Government.
In October of that year, the law was finally changed in England. Scotland and Northern Ireland have since also changed the law so that HIV treatment is guaranteed for everyone, regardless of residency status.
But policy is never as simple as that, and for the past two years we’ve had to fight again to defend NHS access for migrants living with HIV – in this case, access to GP services, where many will be offered an HIV test for the first time. We successfully showed the Government the impact that barriers to services would have on HIV prevention and treatment in England. This February, we heard that the Government has shelved plans to bring in charges for primary care.
So to put it briefly: we care a great deal about this issue. At points over the past few years, defending the rights of all people living with HIV to have equal access to the healthcare they need has been a full-time job for us. But we are still going to walk at Pride.
We are going to walk because Pride is too important and HIV is too important to be kept away by members of a minority political party with some negative and less-than-coherent ideas about the issues which are most important to us.
NAT is a policy organisation. A big part of working in policy is feeling angry; it motivates you to take action. We feel angry about a lot of things, including the increasingly hostile environment faced by migrants living with HIV. We are also angry about the grossly disproportionate impact of HIV on the LGBT community, with 1 in 8 gay men in London living with HIV.
At NAT we know HIV and we know what the Government should do about it. We have our own message to share with the London LGBT community which we think is pretty exciting: about the end of HIV and the end of HIV stigma. This is a powerful, relevant message, which is not built on lies or hatred – and we think it deserves to be heard.
Since the leader’s debate, the HIV community has made an extremely robust challenge to Nigel Farage’s comments, with articles, blogs, open letters and protests.* The response has been rapid, organic and powerful, with the voices of migrants living with HIV front and centre. Pride is another opportunity to get this message out – we hope many others who are passionate about equality will join us on the day.