Denial Of Care For HIV Unacceptable

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On the heels of today's Human Rights Watch report descrying the treatment of HIV-positive immigrant detainees, AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) today criticized the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for its callous disregard for the health and well-being of people living with HIV/AIDS in its care. The 71-page report "Chronic Indifference: HIV/AIDS Services for Immigrants Detained by the U.S.," chronicles the experiences of HIV-positive immigrants whose medical care has been denied or delayed while in U.S. custody, leading to serious medical consequences and even death. The conclusion of the report: DHS is failing to provide adequate care to the HIV-positive individuals in its charge.

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"The grossly inadequate treatment of HIV-positive detainees in the government's care, as detailed in this report, shows a callous disregard for human life and is simply unacceptable," said Michael Weinstein, President of AIDS Healthcare Foundation. "We commend Human Rights Watch for monitoring the treatment of immigrants living with HIV/AIDS in the government's custody and for bringing this important issue to light. Government-run institutions -- such as jails, prisons and detention centers -- have an obligation to provide medical care to those in their charge. We call on the Department of Homeland Security to take immediate steps to remedy the situation and ensure that, whether an individual remains in the U.S. or not, all persons in the government's care receive the lifesaving medical treatment they need."

"The consequences of being denied medicine for those living with HIV/AIDS can be dire," said Dr. Homayoon Khanlou, Chief of Medicine for AIDS Healthcare Foundation. "If patients are not able to take their 'drug cocktail,' their immune system is not able to provide an adequate level of defense against pathogens. Off their medications, patients can quickly develop pneumonia, diarrhea, meningitis. They may even die. In addition, any interruption in the provision of HIV/AIDS meds can lead to drug-resistance -- a serious consequence when one has a life-threatening condition."

According to today's Reuters article by Robert MacMillan, "U.S. Care for HIV Detainees Falls Short-Report," (12/7): "The report said without improved standards for medical care, internal oversight and accountability to the public, 'immigrant detainees with HIV/AIDS will continue to needlessly suffer, and in some cases, die in U.S. immigration detention.' The report detailed the treatment of several people who it said either died or became resistant to AIDS drugs and received incomplete dosages. Most were not identified by their full names. A cellmate of Victoria Arellano, a 23-year-old transgender detainee with HIV/AIDS [who was held at a Southern California I.N.S detention facility], said in an interview with Human Rights Watch that after Arellano began to vomit blood, '(she) was told only to take Tylenol and drink large amounts of water ... she died a week later.'"

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