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World AIDS Day- 1 December

World AIDS Day- 1 December

Physicians for Human Rights-Israel Demands Medical Treatment for HIV+ Migrants in Israel;

Knesset Committee Supports

1 December 2004

Prof. Zvi Bentwich: “The lack of treatment for, and the neglect of migrants who have AIDS is a combination of injustice and shortsightedness on the part of the health authorities of Israel”.

-Prof. Bentwich is a leading AIDS specialist and Chairman of Physicians for Human Rights-Israel.

According to Hadassa hospital in Jerusalem,some 20% of all new HIV carriers are migrant, non-Israelis, undocumented and uninsured and unable to get the basic medical treatment given in Israeli to Israelis.

In 2001 the Ministry of Health (division of Tuberculosis and AIDS) released statistics regarding foreigners and HIV/AIDS and announced that about 25% of new cases of HIV are foreigners. There are probably hundreds of HIV positive non-Israelis living in Israel. They are not eligible for medical treatment via the Sick Funds (HMOs). These non-residents come from various sections of society: migrant workers, asylum seekers, family members of new immigrants (olim) who are not citizens, spouses of Israeli citizens, etc.

Unlike some European states that included HIV/AIDS on the list of diseases, such as tuberculosis, that require treatment for both humanitarian and public health reasons, Israel never did so. The STD clinics in Israel that were opened by the Ministry of Health only diagnose the disease but do not offer treatment.

The only options for undocumented people with HIV/AIDS (including asylum seekers) are: taking part in a research project or relying on the good will of medical institutions, professionals and NGOs like the Israel AIDS Task Force and Physicians for Human Rights-Israel. These are of course limited options, and the threat of deportation is always present.

The current situation means:

• A non-Israeli AIDS patient may suffer and die because of a lack of treatment as has already occurred.

• The policy of offering diagnosis is not enough for prevention, since people who cannot receive treatment are less careful and less aware.

• Even asylum seekers who are protected by International Law do not receive the care they need, and may die before they receive asylum.

Yesterday, Tuesday 30 November 2004, the Knesset Committee for the Problem of Foreign Workers, which is chaired by MK Ran Cohen, agreed that there is a problem that needs to be solved and recommended that a Specialists Committee, which will include health professionals from the Ministry of Health and from the NGOs, will be established to investigate ways of solving the problem. Physicians for Human Rights-Israel recommended the establishment of this committee in its position paper; the association participated in the committee’s discussion today.

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