HIV positive and/or pregnant immigrants in Antwerp to be refused help in the future?
Tempers are rising again in Antwerp and it's easy to see why. The city's new mayor promised his voters ‘the power of change’, and he's wasn't lying. First he forbade gay civil servants to wear ‘rainbow’ T-shirts at work; then he fined children for throwing snowballs, upped the fee for immigrants to register in Antwerp from 17 to 250 euros and now he and his colleagues have decided that local social services cannot automatically reimburse HIV positive illegal immigrants in Antwerp for their antiretroviral medicines anymore. The same goes for pregnant women who are in Antwerp illegally- doctor's visits, the hospital birth and medicines for mother and baby won't be reimbursed automatically anymore. The new powers that be propose to reimburse the cost only if theimmigrants sign a paper at the same time stating that they will return to their country of origin as soon as possible.
This is wrong on so many levels. In the first place, many people can’t go back to their home country because they have fled it for political reasons, or because there is a war going on. There are also many people who came to Belgium to join their family.
In the second place, once people stop taking ARTs because they can't afford them any longer, the HIV virus will soon multiply again and might even become resistant to further treatment. Moreover, we must not forget that these people also have sex with local Flemish people - either because their partner is Belgian, or because they work as prostitutes. This will mean that more people will get infected again.
Liesbeth Homans, head of Social Services and right-hand woman of new mayor Bart De Wever, said: “It is debatable whether ART's should always be given to people who are in this country illegally and who have lost their court appeal for legal status. Our answer is case by case based and we opt for an individual approach.” Knowing the views of their political party N-VA about anything and anyone non-Flemish, we shudder to think of the implications of this attitude.
Designers against AIDS appeals to every politician and citizen with and ounce of common sense and compassion to protest against this decision and speak out against it every time the city council has a meeting. In a civilised society, we help people to the best of our abilities, regardless of where they were born.
DAA is dismayed and flabbergasted by this change in policy- we know it was started when mayor Patrick Janssens was still in office, but it never got accepted then because of a lack of support within the Socialist Party- and rightly so. We will try to get more details from the decision-makers involved and will get back to you soon with more news. Meanwhile we hope that many people will speak out about this issue and will ask the politicians who represent them to take a stand.