Health Ministry agrees to provide free care to migrants with HIV, AIDS

Move comes after Physicians for Human Rights-Israel’s six-year campaign to get treatment for asylum seekers.

AN ISRAELI doctor 370 (photo credit: Baz Ratner/Reuters)
AN ISRAELI doctor 370
(photo credit: Baz Ratner/Reuters)

Instead of leaving the treatment of some 150 migrants who are HIV carriers or have full-blown AIDS to voluntary groups scrounging for financial support, the Health Ministry has finally agreed to cover the costs of their medical care and medications.

After a six-year process, the ministry invited migrants, who are not legal residents and don’t pay health taxes, to go for treatment at the AIDS centers in the country’s public hospitals.

Until now, volunteer doctors in activist organizations such as Physicians for Human Rights-Israel (PHRI) gave them medical care, but some of them had difficulty getting protease-inhibitor drugs, and their condition endangered the health of the local population.
The migrants were required to pay thousands of shekels a year for tests, which many could not afford.
Ministry director-general Prof. Ronni Gamzu issued a long and detailed directive to health officials, heads of pharmaceutical companies and clinics about the change, which will make possible free testing, treatment and follow-up of the foreign HIV/AIDS patients.
Three of those migrants who visited the volunteer clinic in Tel Aviv died in the last two years because, PHR-I said, they did not have full access to medical treatment and medications.
PHR-I added that it regretted the years “it took the Health Ministry to deal with the subject and push for a significant change, years in which lives were unnecessarily lost. At the same time, we congratulate the ministry for its intensive activity in the last year to find a solution – and at a time when various government ministries ignore the distress of migrants, the Health Ministry took action to give them at least some medical care.”
Prof. Zvi Bentwich, a member of the voluntary doctors association and a leading AIDS expert, said that “as one who has treated HIV carriers and AIDS patients – both Israelis and those without status – for years, it wasn’t simple to see the illegals suffering and without the best care that we can give. I am glad that Prof. Gamzu finally responded to our long campaign, joined the fight and created a framework that will ensure that they are properly treated.”