We like to think we live in a friendly, tolerant, all-inclusive society but from time to time people make remarks that make you question that…

Nigel Farage speaking in London ahead of the Conservative Party Conference
Nigel Farage speaking in London ahead of the Conservative Party Conference

In last week’s issue of Newsweek (9th October 2014) the UKIP party leader, Nigel Farage, was being asked about the kind of people a UKIP government would and would not allow to migrate to the UK:

NF: “Ukip want to control the quantity and quality of people who come.”

NW: “Quality? How do you define quality people?”

NF: “It’s simple. That Latvian convicted murderer shouldn’t have been allowed here.”

NW: “So quality means people without a homicide conviction?”

NF: “Yes. And people who do not have HIV, to be frank. That’s a good start.”

So people living with HIV fall under the same bracket as people convicted of killing other human beings. That seems reasonable.

His “rationale” is that HIV care costs money and that we shouldn’t be offering it so readily to people who weren’t born in the United Kingdom. Let’s take a quick look at this – we’ll even bullet point it so that it isn’t too difficult for him to digest…

  • Effective HIV treatment keeps those living with it healthy, it also makes it near impossible for them to pass on HIV to anyone else.
  • With the arrival of generic HIV treatments in the UK the care for people living with HIV has never been cheaper.
  • The threat of either deportation from, or lack of admission to, the UK will stop people getting tested for HIV.
    • Oh by the way, did you know that 80% of all new HIV cases are caused by people who DON’T know they have HIV?
  • By caring for those visiting or working in the UK you protect those already living in the UK.

Even if he managed to, somehow, see past all this sensible evidence – how does he suggest we screen out these individuals?

Do we screen people at the border?

Even the newest testing equipment can’t detect HIV until 21 days after infection – and the older kits take up to three months. So what, lock people in cages when they arrive? Who do we test? People just from countries like South Africa? What about America – a lot of high prevalence over there too. Perhaps UKIP think everyone should be tested and caged? But in the second quarter of 2014 (Apr – Jun) UK airports handled 63.9m people – the cost of testing rapidly outweighs the cost of treatment.

How about pre-screening before they arrive?

As mentioned before the most widely used kit has a three-month window. So if you tested with it today it’d only show you what your status was three months ago today. Add to that the levels of bureaucracy that are involved in immigration and you’ve probably got people taking tests six months before they leave the country, don’t forget the three month window – that HIV test is now nine months out of date and doesn’t account for anything they’ve done since.

HIV care costs approximately £758m per year in the UK, and this treatment keeps both the person healthy and helps prevent further transmission of HIV. Mr Farage is a smoker and a drinker (rarely seen without a cigarette and a pint) smoking costs the NHS £6bn a year and drinking costs a further £2.7bn a year – we‘d ask which is a more pressing matter for the UK’s health and budget. 

Dr David Asboe, Chair of the British HIV Association, said:

“Mr Farage’s suggestion that people with HIV should be banned from migrating to the UK is an example of the most deplorable kind of bigotry.

His stance completely ignores the positive contribution made to society by people with HIV, and threatens to reignite the sort of discrimination and stigma attached to HIV that the vast majority of people in the UK had hoped was consigned to history.

This attitude not only denigrates migrants to the UK, but also the 100,000 people currently living with HIV in the UK, and the 30,000,000 others living with HIV around the world.”

Nigel Farage knows that this is neither a wise, nor a viable, policy. He is simply exploiting both people living with HIV, and the stigma attached to HIV, for his own political gains. If he whips up a little furore to scare the public about HIV, whilst Ebola is in the news, he thinks he’ll have the public eating out of his hands. Don’t believe his poisonous lies, don’t let him have his way.

People with HIV are just as able to be “people of quality”, to be lazy or productive, brilliant or stupid, loving or heartless, as any person who isn’t living with HIV. Our status doesn’t affect who we are, or what use we are to society. We know it. He knows it.

Tom Hayes – (@PositiveLad on twitter)




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