The immigration process is complex and raises a number of issues for people living with HIV. This page is here to help you understand the rules, as well as provide further information on where to get help.
Immigration and asylum
Many migrants to the UK are from countries with high levels of HIV.
Where can I find further information on immigration and asylum in relation to HIV?
NAT recommends visiting the following websites for further information:
Asylum Aid – legal representation and advice for asylum seekers
*Please note that NHS charging rules have been updated since these resources were created. Download NAT and THT’s fact sheet Will I have to pay? for further details.
Can I access HIV treatment in the UK?
Will my HIV treatment be free of charge?
HIV is exempt from NHS charging rules in England. This means that HIV treatment is freely available to everyone who needs it, regardless of their residency status.
In Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland there are different rules, but in practice HIV treatment is usually freely available to asylum seekers and migrants who need it.
Although HIV treatment is free, certain migrants may be charged for accessing other NHS services. For further information, download NAT and THT's factsheet Will I have to pay.
For advice on accessing HIV treatment and care in England, visit our My Care My Voice resource
Does my HIV affect my asylum claim?
Your HIV will not stop you being granted asylum in the UK.
In some individual cases, HIV may be considered favourably in a claim for asylum or humanitarian protection, but this should not be expected. It is always best to seek legal advice about your claim.
Are there any restrictions on migrants with HIV coming to the UK?
No – your HIV status will not stop you entering or staying in the UK.
I am moving to the UK - how do I access HIV treatment when I arrive?
You can go directly to any sexual health clinic and ask to be referred to an HIV specialist. The NHS choices website has search facilities for your nearest sexual health clinic, or you can phone NHS Direct on 0845 4647 and they can tell you. You do not need to register or make an appointment – you can just walk in during opening hours.
It is also important to register with a GP for health needs which are not directly related to your HIV. You can also search for your nearest GP via the NHS Choices website. If you are already registered with a GP practice, they can also refer you to an HIV clinic.
GPs cannot refuse to register you because you have HIV or any other medical condition, or because of your race, colour or sexuality. However, they may refuse to register you if their practice is full. They may also ask questions to ensure that you are a resident of or intend to settle in the UK.
It’s a good idea to bring a few months’ supply of your HIV medication with you so you are in less of a rush when you arrive in the UK. It is fine to bring these drugs into the country, but you should keep them in their original packaging and bring a note from your doctor, just in case you are asked. Remember, there are no restrictions on people living with HIV coming into the UK, so you do not need to be worried that carrying essential HIV medication will affect your permission to enter or stay in the UK.
For advice on accessing HIV treatment and care in England visit our My Care My Voice resource
Can I get any support with benefits or housing?
If you have come to the UK on visa, it might state that you have ’no recourse to public funds’. This means you are unable to claim most benefits and housing assistance – a full list of what is and is not covered by the concept of ’public funds’ is available on the UK Border Agency website.
If you have come to the UK to claim asylum and your claim is still open (including if you have an appeal open), you can apply online for help in the form of cash and housing.
If the Government provides you with housing, you will not be able to choose where this is. This means that you may have to move to another part of the UK from where you made your asylum claim (the UK Border Agency will arrange the move). There is dispersal healthcare guidance in place to ensure that your HIV treatment is not interrupted when you make this move.
If you have been granted refugee status, you can access the full range of benefits and housing that is available to the UK population. For more information read NAT's factsheet on benefits and housing for refugees living with HIV.
What if I am in detention and/or are facing removal from the UK?
Asylum seekers whose claim has been refused and other migrants who have been detained will continue to receive HIV treatment while they are in detention. They are entitled to the same standard of care as the NHS provides to the rest of the population. To ensure this happens in practice, NAT and the British HIV Association (BHIVA) have developed advice to healthcare workers in Immigration Removal Centres (IRCs).
How can I support NAT’s work on immigration and asylum or give my feedback?
NAT is always keen to get feedback from people living with HIV. It’s good for us to know if our information and resources are helpful or if there other things you want to know. Your experiences can also inform our policy work and assist us in campaigning for people living with HIV to be treated fairly, and with dignity and respect. To get in touch with us, please visit our feedback page and let us know your thoughts.
NAT’s vital work can only continue with the generous help of our supporters. There are many ways you can support us without costing you a penny, such as getting involved in Press Gang, becoming an HIV Activist or volunteering. You can also donate to NAT.