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CDC HIV/AIDS/Viral Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update
UNITED KINGDOM: Change Rules on Drugs for HIV, Says Top Doctor
Sarah Boseley
December 14, 2011
The Guardian (London) (11.29.11) - Wednesday, December 14,

A UK law that prevents visitors and asylum seekers from accessing AIDS drugs through the National Health Service (NHS) must be changed, a senior HIV doctor recently urged. New studies show that in addition to protecting the health of people with HIV/AIDS, antiretroviral therapy also can prevent onward transmission of the virus, said Jane Anderson, the new chair of the British HIV Association. Barring access to treatment makes no sense, whatever the patient's immigration status, she said.

"The legislation raises complications about getting the right treatment into the right people," Anderson said. "It deters people from coming to services and it is very confusing." The previous government passed the legislation following tabloid-stoked fears about waves of immigrants seeking free treatment in Britain - a claim that Anderson dismisses.

"The majority of people do not present for HIV care before nine to 18 months after arriving in the country, when they are ill or pregnant," Anderson said. "We've never seen people getting off planes and rushing to HIV clinics." Lord Fowler, the former Tory health secretary behind the mid- 1980s "Don't Die of Ignorance" AIDS campaign, made the same appeal for treatment earlier this year.

Separately, new NHS commissioning arrangements also worry Anderson. Specialist care will be organized by a national board, whereas testing and prevention are likely to be localized.

"We have some of the best outcomes in the world and the best surveillance, and we're not doing a bad job," Anderson said. "We're being asked to change the way in which we do that very good job with financial pressures and a structural reorganization, neither of which are really designed to deliver joined-up care to a group of people who are already in a complicated place in society."