Farage fisked on HIV ‘health tourism’

 

ACT UP London are asking for signatories to a letter concerning Nigel Farage’s claim about HIV ‘health tourism’. The proposed letter contains a helpful fisking of that claim. You can sign the letter here and this is the fisking text:

During the leaders’ TV debate on 2nd April, Mr Farage claimed: “Here’s a fact…there are 7,000 diagnoses in this country every year for people that are HIV positive… 60% of them are not British nationals.”

Mr Farage is entitled to his own opinions, but he is not entitled to his own facts. Each claim is false.

Public Health England’s most recent figures show there were 6,000 people newly diagnosed with HIV in the UK in 2013, a decrease on the 6,250 diagnoses in 2012. The ‘7,000’ figure was last true in 2008, since then the number has been steadily declining.

The same figures show that 45% of people diagnosed with HIV in 2013 were born outside the UK, but the data does not tell us about the nationality of people diagnosed. It records only country of birth – being born outside the UK does not mean you are not a British national.

The average cost of treatment per patient per year is approximately £6,000.

Since an amendment to NHS Charging Regulations in 2012, HIV treatment has been available free to everyone in the UK who needs it, regardless of immigration status.

This is because providing antiretroviral treatment for all people living with HIV greatly reduces HIV transmission, encourages earlier testing and health-promoting behaviours and keeps people living with HIV healthy, reducing additional healthcare costs. The Coalition government implemented this change because it saves money.

Professor Dame Sally Davies, the Chief Medical Officer, explained the decision to provide free HIV treatment: “Effective treatment of HIV reduces its spread by up to 96 per cent . . . offering NHS treatment will encourage testing, resulting in fewer undiagnosed HIV infections and therefore ensuring that there is less chance of passing on infection to the wider population.”

Mr Farage claims that the UK’s policy on HIV treatment encourages so-called ‘health tourism’. There is no evidence to support this claim. The National AIDS Trust, in 2008, concluded there is no evidence that decisions to migrate to the UK are influenced by the desire to seek HIV treatment. This is further demonstrated by the significant average time lapse between arriving in the UK and seeking testing and subsequent treatment.

Some UK residents who are living with HIV are migrants. They are brought here by work, relationships, or education. Some are seeking asylum and fleeing persecution. They contribute to and are part of British society. Many came from countries that also offer HIV treatment and care. Many others acquired HIV in the UK, or were diagnosed long after arriving. Regardless, it is wrong to link HIV with immigration.

* Paul Walter is a Liberal Democrat activist. He is one of the Liberal Democrat Voice team. He blogs at Liberal Burblings.

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45 Comments

  • Eddie Sammon 14th Apr '15 - 11:28am

    I signed the letter the other day. I don’t know how accurate it is, but I know Farage’s comments weren’t accurate and were offensive. Using his rationale there are a whole load of illnesses we shouldn’t treat because they are expensive.

    Regards

  • Professor Dame Sally Davies, the Chief Medical Officer, explained the decision to provide free HIV treatment: “Effective treatment of HIV reduces its spread by up to 96 per cent . . . offering NHS treatment will encourage testing, resulting in fewer undiagnosed HIV infections and therefore ensuring that there is less chance of passing on infection to the wider population.”

    Thanks for including this Paul.

    Who would you listen to when considering the best approach to public health, the Chief Medical Officer or the former City Spiv Mr Nigel – fags and pints- Farage ?

    Even a man in a pub could answer that question correctly.

  • matt (Bristol) 14th Apr '15 - 12:00pm

    If we use Farage’s logic, Boris Johnson is a ‘health tourist’ every time he has a GP appointment.

    Eddie, these statistics were also fact-checked by Radio 4, I believe… not saying the BBC are God, but more than one person has checked this non-fact out.

  • I’m sure I heard Nick Clegg say that the UK should do everything to stop health tourism. Is this not true? Is it Lib Dem policy to encourage everyone to come here for free treatment?

  • There is a wider point, though – are we as a society prepared to pay for a comprehensive health, education and welfare system and allow anyone to access it, regardless of where they have come from, if they happen to have entered the country?

    And if the answer to that question is yes, then why do we only give it yo those with the wherewithall to get into the country?

  • To clarify my point above – access it it immediately without any prior contribution

  • What is ‘fisk’, is it a typo ?

  • “Fisk” is a term invented by American conservative bloggers who attacked the anti-war articles of Robert Fisk, a reporter for The Independent, by supposedly analysing his articles point by point and offering detailed rebuttals. In fact, the rebuttals were often even more nonsensical than Fisk’s somewhat histrionic articles.

    So what “fisking” really means is “an attempt by pseudo-journalists to gain credibility by bashing a well-known figure, often in a way mostly embarrassing to themselves.”

  • “There is a wider point, though” [Tabman]

    A agree and suggest that whilst there is a level of provision we need to make in this country, there is also a level we need to be prepared to make overseas, we saw this recently with Ebola, I put HIV/AIDS in the same category, namely whilst we should treat those who are here, really we want to discourage people with these conditions from travelling. So whilst Nigel may be only really voicing a popular concern which isn’t necessarily backed up by the facts, it does provide a useful starting point to say what we are doing.

    Given the numbers of people flying from Ebola areas with only minimal quarantine, I think we can count ourselves lucky that we didn’t get a local outbreak.

  • Roland – that’s all valid.

    But even more fundamentally than that – we as a society have built and paid for wrap-around health, education and social provision for ourselves.

    How far are we prepared to say “if you can get here you can benefit from it too, no questions asked and no prior contribution expected”? Because that’s the implication of what anti-Farage commentators are saying.

    Now I’m not saying that’s not a valid point of view, but if we’re in the business of providing it to non-EU citizens no questions/no prior contribution and we don’t restrict entry then unsurprisingly people may travel here to take advantage of that.

  • Tabman – I think we are in agreement, politicians et al. and the media like to reduce things down to a black-and-white soundbite, when in fact they are shades of grey and interconnected with other policies. Interesting, one of the things I’ve not heard yet in this campaign is “joined up government”…

  • I just want to make the point that if we are happy to have unlimited immigration, unlimited health tourism and everyone is welcome to free health care, then we might as well scrap the NHS now.

  • @Peter
    “Is it Lib Dem policy to encourage everyone to come here for free treatment?”

    Certainly not everyone. The Lib Dems’ current immigration policy paper, “Making Migration Work For Britain”, states that “sponsors of elderly dependants, over the age of state retirement, should pay a health levy before their dependants are allowed to settle in the UK… it is expected that this will necessarily be a large sum, likely to deter those without substantial means.”

    I suppose you could make an economic case for treating old people and young HIV sufferers differently, but I’m not sure there’s much moral difference between saying you don’t want the NHS spending money on foreign HIV patients and saying you don’t want the NHS spending money on foreign old people.

  • I’m pretty sure that other countries do not offer health care as a free right to every immigrant. I’m also pretty sure that countries outside of the EU actually have workable immigration policies as well.

  • Anyone who works in a front line job in a hospital in the UK recognises that health tourism is rampant. Many of the serious illnesses that were eradicated in the UK, such as TB, are now seen regularly together with genetic syndromes usually associated with inter-breeding.

    These cases are tragic, but when amplified by an increasing population and increasing level of immigration, our politicians need to make tough decisions. Increasing demands on the NHS will quickly bankrupt the entire system. The woolly, touchy-feely knee jerk reaction to see any concern as offensive does not make me feel that the Lib Dems deserve any role in serious government.

  • Eddie Sammon 14th Apr '15 - 7:19pm

    Peter, I have sympathies with your view, but on this matter Farage shouldn’t have singled out HIV. Being a bit sensitive is a good thing.

  • Philip Thomas 14th Apr '15 - 7:30pm

    @Peter- you’re right, they don’t offer free healthcare to immigrants in Somalia or North Korea.
    British citizens in Europe benefit far more from so-called “health tourism” than EU citizens in Britain.
    Immigrants have to pay the same taxes (and extortionate home office fees in the bargain), so the should have the same entitlements as citizens. Or we could say immigrants don’t have to pay taxes, UKIP would love that…

  • David Evans 14th Apr '15 - 7:41pm

    Philip, Can you point to some evidence to support the statement “British citizens in Europe benefit far more from so-called “health tourism” than EU citizens in Britain.” If we can provide evidence it is is a good counter for us to use against UKIP.

  • Philip Thomas 14th Apr '15 - 7:51pm
  • @ Philip Thomas
    I think that your rather flippant and inadequate comment rather proves my point.

  • David Evans 14th Apr '15 - 8:42pm

    Thanks Philip

  • Philip Thomas 14th Apr '15 - 8:49pm

    @Peter: if you can find me a country which offers free healthcare for nationals and none for non-national legal residents, we can discuss it. But most countries which don’t offer free healthcare to immigrants (e.g, USA) also don’t offer it to natives: most European countries make tourists take out health insurance because their system is a health insurance based system, for example.

    And I was being entirely serious about immigrants paying tax. Tax revenues from actual tourism far exceed costs to NHS of “health tourism”.

  • Jenny Barnes 14th Apr '15 - 8:59pm

    tabman “There is a wider point, though”. Would that be a blunter one? Less, as one might say, pointy?

  • Philip Thomas 14th Apr '15 - 9:09pm

    There is a wider point though- are we as a society prepared to have a health service where, before treatment is provided, the doctor or nurse must first check the patient’s immigration papers to establish their immigration status?
    I have received special training in this task, and it can take me several hours to form a view (which may then need to be disputed with the Home Office, which dispute can take years). I think waiting several hours before treatment is not a good idea in many cases (let alone years).

  • “I think waiting several hours before treatment is not a good idea in many cases” – Don’t know, it could end up costing significantly less than the intended emergency treatment… But yes your point is entirely valid, we don’t want a situation where the ambulance personnel are checking accident victims for insurance, id etc. before they start to give any assistance.

  • Roland. Indeed that is true for acute cases. But what about chronic cases?

  • I don’t think anyone has any problem with emergency cases being treated with no questions. It It’s self-evidently the case that emergency cases didn’t come to the UK with a broken arm! But chronic cases are a different matter, and probably cost much much more…

  • Philip Thomas 15th Apr '15 - 7:10am

    “Effective treatment of HIV reduces its spread by up to 96 per cent . . . offering NHS treatment will encourage testing, resulting in fewer undiagnosed HIV infections and therefore ensuring that there is less chance of passing on infection to the wider population”

    Are we really suggesting someone with a potentially* infectious disease should be let in a waiting room while we look up their immigration status- and then not treated if they don’t tick the right boxes?

    *(we don’t really know whether it is infectious until we treat them)

    People with the “wrong immigration status” are already denied most of their civil rights. If we’re going to imprison people indefinitely without trial, denying them medical treatment while in prison isn’t just barbaric, it is stupid (hint, prison guards can catch infectious diseases).

  • Philip Thomas 15th Apr '15 - 7:11am

    “let in a waiting room” should read “left in a waiting room”.

  • @Philip Thomas
    “I think waiting several hours before treatment is not a good idea”

    That’s happening in NHS A&Es already. I’m being flippant here, and am not suggesting we have immigration checks in A&Es, but if we did have such checks they’d probably be finished long before the patient got to see a doctor!

  • Philip Thomas 15th Apr '15 - 8:36am

    @jedibeeftrix
    I wasn’t talking about whether or not people should be sent to their deaths in foreign countries (although you can guess my views). I was talking about whether, while we are holding them in prison arguing about whether or not they should be sent to their deaths*, they should be denied medical treatment- which is a logical consequence of Nigel Farage’s rhetoric.

    *which includes arguing with the chosen destination country about willingness to accept them, a process which can take years.

  • Peter 14th Apr ’15 – 6:54pm
    “……… genetic syndromes usually associated with inter-breeding.”

    The mask has dropped. Peter is really concerned about “inter-breeding”!

    So I guess Peter would have the children of Mr and Mrs Farage whipped out of the country immediately as they are the products of “inter-breeding” and might have some of these mysterious “genetic syndromes” that he seeks to frighten us with?

    The children of Greek/German immigrant The Duke of Edinburgh should also be shipped out on Peter’s logic.

    If only those Angles had not inter-bred with those Saxons (let alone the Welsh) the UK would have a clean race, free from all those genetic syndromes that must have accumulated over the last two thousand years of inter-breeding.

  • “Are we really suggesting someone with a potentially* infectious disease should be let in a waiting room while we look up their immigration status- and then not treated if they don’t tick the right boxes?”

    The last time I looked you didn’t get HIV from sitting in a waiting room.

    What’s the proportion of non-EU and non-legal migrants here to work vs those here to escape persecution?

  • The point I’m trying to get people to consider, and I genuinely font know the answer, is that once someone is in the country they get access to all the same health, education and social benefits as a citizen or legal migrant.

    Our country is a much more stable and attractive place to live than many other countries and consequently will attract people to come here. For most illegal migrants that means placing themselves at considerable personal risk and in the hands of some very unscrupulous people. Yet the “prize” is deemed to be worth it.

    Our current system encourages this behaviour.

    Wouldn’t would be better placed

  • matt (Bristol) 15th Apr '15 - 10:36am

    Tabman, can you evidence that we experience this problem in a more extreme way than other West European countries?

  • Peter, I assume you meant to write “in-breeding”!

  • No, but that’s irrelevant and we have, as other posters have pointed out, a different system to other western countries which mostly have insurance-based health care.

    I’m asking the question – are we happy to give free health, education and social care to anyone who turns up, regardless of immigration status and contributions? And if so why do we stop at our borders?

  • Christine Headley 15th Apr '15 - 2:28pm

    @Tabman – No, we don’t intend to give free health, education and social care to all comers. However, if people legally here turn out to have HIV, we would rather it was diagnosed and treated, as that works out cheaper in the long run (according to Dame Sally, who knows more about it that I do) than having them sick and/or exchanging bodily fluids with others in ignorance. HIV-positive people here illegally could be regarded as a ticking time-bomb and, as they are illegal, won’t want to bring attention to themselves. I don’t think there is one easy answer for that situation.

  • Chris Holman 15th Apr '15 - 3:53pm

    Give an old duffer a clue. What’s “fisked”?

  • Philip Thomas 15th Apr '15 - 10:52pm

    Tabman: You would deny children inside the United Kingdom education on the basis of their immigration stats?
    Are you sure you’re a Liberal Democrat? Even the Tory party doesn’t go that far!

  • Philip Thomas – where have I said that? Please do not ascribe opinions to me that I have not given.

    OTOH if you’re prepared to spend UK taxpayers money on educating illegal immigrants why do we not pay to educate people who live overseas? They deserve it as much, if not more, than the people who’ve arrived on our shores.

  • Tabman – ” why do we not pay to educate people who live overseas?”

    Given that the LibDems are wanting to enshrine the UN overseas spending target of 0.7% of national income into UK law, this does seem a rather good use of these monies – particularly if they are used to provide work for UK graduates.

    Given that the UK and it’s education is still held in high regard in many countries, we should capitalise on it – but somehow I can’t see a British government being so business like, particularly as even Margaret Thatcher didn’t get it.

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