The chairperson of 'Catholics for AIDS Prevention and Support' Vincent Manning, has been invited to speak at a rally in Trafalgar Square on Monday evening in support of migrants living with HIV in the UK. The rally coincides with the start of 'Refugee Week'. Organisers 'Act Up London' and 'London Artists Projects' describe it as "A joyful and peaceful action for HIV+ and HIV- migrants, their friends, family and allies."
Vincent Manning said he intends to convey Pope Francis' prayer intention for June: 'the welcome and respect of refugees and migrants wherever they seek shelter'. Green Party Leader Natalie Bennet is also due to speak, along with representatives from several HIV agencies.
"As Catholics it is important that we show God's love for any person living with HIV and that our Church welcomes them, wherever they come from, and
whatever their situation. Migrants and Refugees living with HIV today, are Christ present, and we will be judged by how we treat them" said Mr Manning. The Rally will take place between 6pm and 8pm in Trafalgar Square, on Monday 15th June.
Statement of Solidarity
We believe in a just and welcoming Britain, where no one is discriminated against because of their HIV status or country of origin. We believe in a health service that is free and publicly funded, offering medical care for all who live in the UK. Migrants come to Britain for many reasons - including work, family, education, or fleeing persecution. They contribute to and are a part of British society. They pay into, and often work for, the NHS. They deserve the same care, respect and dignity as anyone else living in Britain.
If we are going to end the HIV epidemic, we must increase access to care, rather than spreading old lies and misinformation. Our nation is healthier and fairer when there is care for all.
In the 2015 Leadership Debates, Nigel Farage stoked fears that 60% of new HIV diagnoses in the UK each year come from people who are not British nationals. THIS IS NOT TRUE:
• Public Health England's most recent figures show a steady decrease in new HIV diagnoses since 2008 , See: www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/401662/2014_PHE_HIV_annual_report_draft_Final_07-01-2015.pdf
• They show that only 45% of people diagnosed in 2013 were born outside of the UK but they offer no information about nationality - being born outside of the UK does not mean you are not a British national. The figures also do not demonstrate whether the virus was acquired in the UK or elsewhere.
Farage later tried to incite division with claims that treating foreign nationals resulted in longer wait times and poor services for HIV+ Britons.
THIS IS ALSO NOT TRUE:
From Public Health England's latest Report on the quality of care: "Nearly all adults (98% of 5,970 people aged 15 or above) newly diagnosed in 2013 were linked to HIV care within three months of diagnosis. Integration into care was prompt across all groups regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation and residence. The annual retention rate and treatment coverage among all adults seen for HIV care remained high at 95%."
Experts, working in HIV clinics and hospitals every day, refute Farage as well:
"There is evidence demonstrating health tourism - that is, coming to the UK to seek treatment - is a myth... Bogus targeting of migrants as health tourists increases stigma and makes both testing and retention in care less likely and therefore HIV transmissions within the UK more likely." - Dr. David Asboe (British HIV Association) in statement to the BMJ
"The fact is that the UK continues to deliver among the world's best care for people living with HIV and partly this is due to removing barriers to getting tested and accessing treatment. By spreading misinformation and prejudice, Mr Farage acts to create a climate of fear and ignorance which is detrimental to our efforts to tackle this important public health issue." - Dr Iain Reeves, consultant physician in sexual health and HIV, Homerton University Hospital
"HIV clinic services have not been downgraded as a result of migration. This is a fact. The UK's medical care for people living with HIV is world-leading, with 98 per cent of newly diagnosed people starting treatment and care when recommended and 90 per cent of people in HIV treatment achieving complete viral suppression - meaning they no longer have enough of the virus in their blood to be infectious or to get ill." - Deborah Gold, Chief Executive of the National AIDS Trust
Antiretroviral treatment for HIV has been freely available to foreign nationals on the NHS since 2012:
• This is a sensible and just public health measure. It reduces infection rates in the broader population, which cuts costs in the long run.
• According to Sally Davies, the Chief Medical Officer, "Effective treatment of HIV reduces its spread by up to 96%... offering NH treatment will encourage testing, resulting in fewer undiagnosed HIV infections and therefor ensuring that there is less chance of passing on infection to the wider population."
Treating everyone equally is one of the founding principles of the National Health Service. In 1952, Nye Bevan ("father of the NHS") declared:
One of the consequences of the universality of the British Health Service is the free treatment of foreign visitors. This has given rise to a great deal of criticism, most of it ill-informed and some of it deliberately mischievous... The whole agitation has a nasty taste... Conservatives have tried to exploit the most disreputable emotions in this among many other attempts to discredit socialized medicine. - Anuerin Bevan, In Place of Fear
The 2014 Immigration Act - passed under the Coalition government - instituted new charges and restrictions for migrants accessing the NHS:
• Students and non-EU migrants (who already pay visas, student fees, and taxes here) are now forced to pay new surcharges before they are allowed NHS treatment;
• Refugees, asylum seekers and undocumented migrants are now excluded from many crucial services.
These policies are unjust and should be repealed. Medical staff should not be forced to operate as border control; no one should fear to go to the doctor either because they can't pay or might be punished. (For more information, visit www.docsnotcops.uk)
For more information on CAP see: www.caps-uk.org/
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