Dispersing asylum seekers may increase HIV burden

August 05, 2004

Doctors are concerned that the UK policy of dispersing asylum seekers may lead to increased HIV transmission, according to a paper in this week's BMJ.

More than 100,000 asylum seekers have so far been dispersed from London and southeast England to alternative locations around the United Kingdom in an attempt to spread the cost of care. Many are from regions with HIV/AIDS epidemics.

Fifty-six doctors working in genitourinary medicine clinics across England were surveyed about dispersal of HIV infected asylum seekers. Many believed that dispersal was disruptive, may compromise HIV care, and may lead to increased transmission.

Of particular concern was that dispersal is done at short notice or with no prior arrangement, and often without appropriate transfer of medical details. Only three centres had experienced appropriate transfer of care.

Before the decision to disperse, the National Asylum Support Service should seek specialist advice, say the authors.

This study is a reflection of doctors' opinions, however the serious concerns raised warrant further investigation if we are to ensure that dispersal is not to be detrimental to patients' health, they conclude.
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BMJ

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