Eritrean migrants in Tel Aviv..
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
The Israel AIDS Task Force is imploring the government to allow Eritrean and Sudanese migrants with HIV to remain in treatment in Israel amid the pending April 1 mass expulsion of 20,000 unmarried African men of working age.
Out of a total population of 38,000 African migrants in Israel, the Health Ministry estimates there are approximately 400 with HIV.
According to Israel AIDS Task Force’s coordinator, Tal Aberman, 207 have been identified and 184 are being treated via the ministry’s National HIV Prevention and Treatment Program for Immigrants.
Among the patients in treatment, Aberman estimates that 30 are slated to be deported to an unnamed country, widely believed to be Rwanda or Uganda.
“When we learned on January 1 that the Interior Ministry decided to deport asylum seekers from Sudan and Eritrea, we contacted the government and demanded that people living with HIV not be deported,” she said on Tuesday.
“We also contacted UNHCR and tried to get all possible information to learn if they do get deported to Rwanda if they will get medical treatment, and the conclusion was that they will not. So, the bottom line is that the government is deporting people getting treatment in Israel and living a healthy life and sending them to their deaths.”
Aberman said the NGO has yet to receive a response from the Interior Ministry.
“It has been radio silence so far,” she lamented.
To date, Aberman said all African HIV patients have been given letters from UNHCR stating their condition, and informing the government that they will not receive treatment in Rwanda.
Asked if she was concerned about whether the stigma of having HIV would create more anti-African migrant sentiment, Aberman noted that 207 people out of 8.7 million should not be cause for alarm.
“We are allowing these people to live a healthy life and get medication, so why not let them stay here,” she said. “Also, we are past stigmatization, because the press and government already call them ‘cancer,’ ‘terrorists,’ and ‘criminals,’ anyway.”
In the meantime, Aberman said the Israel AIDS Task Force has received ongoing support from UNHCR, multiple NGOs, and the Health Ministry, which is providing medication and treatment at no cost.
“I think that it is very important to say that we are getting a lot of help and support, which is helping us in reaching out to the African community to get tested and find treatment.”