Today we learned from an article in Flemish daily newspaper De Morgen that the local OCMW (an organization that helps people in financial and other social trouble and that since this January is headed by Liesbeth Homans of political party N-VA) will not automatically reimburse antiretroviral medicines anymore to seropositive people who are in Antwerp illegally. They propose to pay them their medicines back only if they sign a paper at the same time promising to return to their country of origin as soon as possible.
Designers against AIDS is of course dismayed and flabbergasted by this change in policy, which we're sure is against the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, for one thing. We will try to get more details from the decision-makers involved and get back to you soon!
Read the article in English here:
The OCMW of Antwerp will not automatically pay 800 euros per month per patient for the treatment of HIV positive immigrants anymore. That way some of them end up without medication and threaten to spread a resistant virus, report the papers of Corelio in Belgium today (February 18, 2013)
During the previous OCMW council in Antwerp, members Dirk Avonts (Groen) and Dirk Van Duppen (PvdA), who are doctors themselves, raised this matter. “The repayment of ARVs already was an issue during the previous board.”, says Avonts. “The new OCMW board has now affirmed that every case of HIV patients gets reviewed individually and there won’t be a general arrangement anymore. We think that this doesn’t make any sense. Every HIV patient needs his/her ARVs.”
After a few days without ARVs the virus multiplies again. Moreover, a low dose of ARVs stimulates the formation of resistant HIV viruses. “It’s a danger for the public health”, says Ludwig Apers of the Antwerp Institute for Tropical Medicine. “Especially when we know that immigrants often prostitute themselves to survive.”
According to the president of the Antwerp OCMW Liesbeth Homans, immigrants who need ARVs in practice get helped in almost all cases. She also says that the OCMW goes beyond the prescribed federal rules. For the future, she suggests that Ministers Laurette Onkelinx and Maggie De Block link the provision of urgent medical care to immigrants to signing a voluntary return program. “That way we ensure the urgent medical care and prevent any threat to public health”, said Homans.
“The question remains whether ARVs always have to be given to people who are illegal in our country when they already received an expulsion order.” said Homans in a statement. “Our answer is nuanced, the OCMW of Antwerp chooses an individual approach.”
Urgent medical care
Homans points out that the federal government only repays costs of urgent medical care like ARVs to the OCMW when a number of criteria have been taken into account, like the availability of the drugs in the country of origin and whether the medical regularization of the patient got refused.
A treatment with ARVs costs about 800 euros per person per month says Homans. “Last year the OCMW of Antwerp paid more than 250.000 euros that came from their own budget to urgent medical care for immigrants”, she continues. “This shows that Antwerp indeed uses more flexible rules than the federal rules prescribe.”
Onkelinx and De Block
Minister of Public Healt Laurette Onkelinx (PS) wants a solution for the HIV positive immigrants in Antwerp. This week she will meet with the Minister for Migration and Asylum Maggie De Block (Open Vld) to discuss this issue.
Read the original article (in Flemish) here: