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Human Rights Groups Call for Protection of HIV-Positive Migrants


Human-rights groups have released a new report calling for governments to rethink deportation rules for people living with HIV and AIDS. In some countries migrants who suffer from HIV are automatically deported and in many countries across the globe no treatment is given to HIV-positive people in detention centers. A Human Rights Watch spokeswoman said the present policies amount to a death sentence for many migrants living with the virus.

Human-rights groups say governments and donors must make sure HIV-positive migrants have access to life-saving anti-retroviral therapy when detained and, if deported, that they have continued access to treatment.

Rebecca Schleifer from Human Rights Watch, a London-based group that worked on the report, spoke to VOA by phone. She says the treatment of HIV-positive migrants is a question of international law. "International law provides that states have the right to control their borders and decide who to admit or deport. But they need to make these decisions in compliance with international law, including international human-rights law and international refugee law, for example," she said.

She says many people suffering from HIV are being deported to countries where good HIV care is not ensured and this is, in effect, a death sentence. "In some cases people face deportation to countries where they face a possibility of inhumane treatment and in some cases torture should they be deported to that country. In some cases that is because the medical care is so inadequate that they will face death and there is no social support and in some cases there is also discrimination against people living with HIV," she said.

What is more, she says, there is no infrastructure to ensure that migrants suffering from HIV will receive continuous care. When treatment is not continuous, patients can easily build up an immunity to the drugs.

But Schleifer says the news is not all bad. She says some new cross-border migrant programs are emerging that focus on the need for continuous HIV treatment. "There have been hundreds of thousands of Zimbabwean refugees coming into South Africa over the past several years, many of whom have among other things serious health problems and some of whom have HIV. There have been discussions regionally among NGOs -and I am not sure how far this has gotten with particularly governments - about the importance of having a regional structure to address continuity of care for people who cross borders," she said.

The 27-page report was prepared by Human Rights Watch, Deutsche AIDS-Hilfe, the European AIDS Treatment Group, and the African HIV Policy network.

Researchers in Thailand say they have found a new vaccine which cuts the risk of HIV infection by a third. The breakthrough marks the first step towards protecting the world against the deadly virus.

Governments have committed themselves to the goal of universal access to HIV treatment by 2010.

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