HIV Positive Londoner Unable to Access Care Gives Human Face to Cost of Health Tourism

AP Photo/Sherry Yates Young
AP Photo/Sherry Yates Young

A mixed-race HIV positive Londoner has written a letter of support to Nigel Farage following the Ukip leader’s remarks on HIV health tourism. The anonymous author, who describes himself as a “victim of HIV immigration”, details how his health is being put in jeopardy thanks to the system being overloaded.

Mr Farage first raised the issue of HIV health tourism during the televised leaders’ debate on April 2nd. “Here’s a fact,” he said. “I’m sure other people will be mortified that I dare to even talk about it. There are 7,000 diagnoses in this country every year for people who are HIV positive, which is not a good place for any of them to be, I know. But 60 percent of them are not British nationals.

“You can come to Britain from anywhere in the world and get diagnosed with HIV and get the retroviral drugs that cost up to £25,000 per year per patient.

“I know there are some horrible things happening in many parts of the world, but what we need to is put the National Health Service there for British people and families who in many cases have paid into this system for decades.”

His comments were panned by his opponents, despite a poll showing that half of Britain’s voters supported a ban on new migrants claiming health care on the NHS within the first five years of their arrival. 52 percent thought that Mr Farage was right to raise the issue of health tourism, agreeing that “immigrants with serious conditions like HIV are costing the health service a large amount of money.”

The controversy prompted one Londoner to write to Mr Farage in support, confirming that it was indeed the case that HIV treatment is now harder to come by thanks to new rules which allow migrants to access specialist HIV care without question.

In a heartbreaking letter, the man, who wishes to remain anonymous told Mr Farage that he has only 14 days worth of life-saving pills left, yet it takes three weeks simply to get a blood test. He will then face a further wait to see a doctor.

“We used to be able to do this the same day”, he said.

“The waiting rooms are full with immigrant patients. Not only is this massively increasing the cost it is burdening the small specialist system to the point of failure. Something must change and I support your comments fully.”

According to the author, a service delivering live-saving medication directly to patients’ doors collapsed under the weight of use. “NHS Service Providers have tried to sign up as many people as possible to home delivery as it saves clinic time and costs, but this service has now completely failed, a fact widely known by patients and doctors and care managers,” he said.

When the patient stopped being referred to by his name and was assigned “an eight figure patient number instead,” he moved his care from St Thomas’s Hospital in central London to access “faster and better care” in outer London. However, “four years later even these outer London services are now suffering the same service failure I have described above”.

“You are right”, he told Farage, “there is a steady flow of HIV+ immigrants that have directly contributed to this situation which has gone past the point of critical mass.

“The reality is, I will run out of medication in 14 days. I must take a tablet every day to stay alive but I can’t get blood tests and I can’t get to see a doctor and I can’t get a prescription which should have resulted in an automatic delivery of my medication to my front door.”

Last night, during a question and answer session broadcast on the BBC ahead of the general election, Mr Farage again raised the spectre of HIV health tourism, telling the audience that Britain “could easily save £1billion a year plus” by clamping down on health tourism.

“It’s interesting,” he said. “I have here a letter from a 30-year-old HIV positive man in London who says, why are the waiting rooms now full to overflowing? Why does it now take me three weeks to get an appointment?

“And he says to me, it is because since we opened the door in 2012 we’re now incapable of providing HIV treatment for people legally living in Britain.”


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