The removal of charges for undocumented migrants and non-UK citizens accessing HIV treatment and care in England comes into effect today. From now on, HIV treatment will be provided free of charge to all who need it, regardless of citizenship or immigration status.
The move was first announced in February and the relevant legislation passed in June. Health ministers have justified the change on the grounds of public health, pointing to the impact that HIV treatment has on onward transmission.
Although it was initially proposed that free HIV treatment should only be available to people who have been living in the UK for more than six months, this requirement has not been retained in the legislation.
While treatment in HIV clinics will always be free of charge, migrants living with HIV who need hospital treatment for another health condition, such as diabetes, heart disease or cancer, or who require antenatal care, may still be subject to charging regulations.
Moreover, the rules have only changed in England.
In Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, the legislation still states that HIV treatment may be chargeable, although charges for HIV treatment have not been levied or actively pursued in recent years. The National AIDS Trust (NAT) has called for a formal change in the law in these countries, to ensure that free universal access to HIV treatment is guaranteed across the UK.