(PlusNews) – On the first day of October, a law change enabled everyone in England, regardless of their immigration status, to obtain free treatment for HIV and AIDS. This marks a victory for advocacy groups that have long argued that the health system restricted access to HIV treatment for some of the country’s most vulnerable people.
Every resident in Britain contributes to the National Health Service (NHS) through their taxes, and gets free treatment. People without residency have to pay for treatment, with two exceptions: Cases of accidents or emergencies, where everyone receives free treatment from hospitals, and cases where serious infectious disease could be passed on to members of the public. But while treatment for STIs like syphilis and gonorrhoea fell under this latter category, treatment for HIV and AIDs did not.
This has changed, and HIV is now eligible for free treatment. “We have been campaigning on this for something like seven years,” Eleanor Briggs, of the National AIDS Trust (NAT) policy and campaigns team, told IRIN/PlusNews. “So we are very pleased, and see it as a very positive development. It really was an anomaly that treatment for HIV was chargeable when other infectious conditions and STIs were not. Tests were always free but we know some people were put off taking the test because they were afraid of the cost of treatment, and so could have been infected and spreading the virus.”