Intended for healthcare professionals

Student Life

Only happy when I screen

BMJ 2004; 328 doi: (Published 01 May 2004) Cite this as: BMJ 2004;328:0405212
  1. Aula Abbara, fourth year medical student1,
  2. Nick Partridge, chief executive2
  1. 1Imperial College, London
  2. 2Terrence Higgins Trust

Aula Abbara looks at the arguments driving the government to rethink its policy in favour of screening immigrants for HIV before they set foot in the UK

“This house believes that for the good of public health and funds, all immigrants should be screened for HIV.” This debate for medical students was held in the House of Commons where the motion was overwhelmingly defeated.

Ministers are currently debating this issue in parliament and current indications suggest that they are likely to vote in favour of the proposal. They have been looking at the procedures in place in Australia, Canada, the United States, and other countries where anyone seeking permanent residence is screened for HIV. A total of 47 countries in the world already ask prospective visitors to have an HIV test, which they have to pay for themselves. Current UK immigration procedures decree that immigration officers can refer people who appear to be in poor physical or mental health to a port medical inspector. People testing positive for HIV would not be barred from entering the United Kingdom, but free medical care on the NHS would be restricted.

One reason for the proposed policy change is to stem the flow of health tourists and reduce the prevalence of HIV in the UK by testing immigrants for HIV in their home country. Proponents of compulsory testing argue that UK taxpayers may have their NHS healthcare provision negatively affected by immigrants who, though only eligible for restricted treatment, may slip through the net. Undiagnosed HIV in immigrants--either because they are illegal or because they fear stigmatisation--is a major public health concern; it could spread the virus to the resident population leading to a UK epidemic. The government also wants to avoid swamping already strained genitourinary health resources with an influx of immigrants …

View Full Text

Log in

Log in through your institution


* For online subscription