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Perspective needed on migrant healthcare costs

PRESS RELEASE: August 31, 2006

Perspective needed on migrant healthcare costs

The potential costs to the taxpayer in treating Zimbabwean migrants for HIV need to be put into perspective, says the New Zealand AIDS Foundation.

Concerns have been raised about the potential drain on the health service following the Government’s announcement yesterday that a number of Zimbabwean migrants in New Zealand under a Special Residency Policy will not be forced to leave the country should they test positive for HIV.

“Firstly, we’re talking about people who are already in New Zealand – working, paying taxes, contributing to the economy and helping to build strong communities,” says NZAF Executive Director Rachael Le Mesurier. “There are 800 Zimbabweans in this group who are yet to apply for residency, and not all of them are going to test positive for HIV.”

In the extremely unlikely event that this occurs, the projected costs of antiretroviral treatment are being overestimated. “Not all people who test positive for HIV require immediate antiretroviral treatment,” Le Mesurier says. “The $2.9 million figure being quoted for annual treatment for this group is a worst case scenario. Even then, it pales in comparison to the estimated $250 million annual cost to the taxpayer caused by smoking.”

The political situation in Zimbabwe has essentially made HIV-positive migrants into refugees, and to send them back would be inhumane.

“New Zealanders are caring and generous when it comes to supplying humanitarian aid overseas, and this situation is no different,” Le Mesurier says. “HIV is now an unavoidable, global problem. The extreme reactions and stigma we have seen being generated from some political quarters only work to fuel this. Our commitment to creating supportive environments for communities most at risk of contracting the virus will keep this epidemic under control.”

ENDS

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