Many refugees and asylum seekers in Europe come from countries that are among the worst hit by HIV/AIDS, in particular sub-Saharan Africa. Although the rate of new infections per year has fallen in Africa, the total number of people affected is constantly growing.
The figures for AIDS cases in Africa remain appalling. In 2007, 67% of all people living with the virus lived in Africa, and 72% of the world’s AIDS deaths occurred there. According to estimates, in 2011 in Cameroon 570,000 people, out of a total population of around 20 million, had the virus, 440,000 people were living with HIV in 2008 in Côte d’Ivoire and 1.2 million in Ethiopia in 2010.
Refugees and asylum seekers are often accused of spreading AIDS and other diseases. But what are the facts? To what extent are refugees and asylum seekers in Europe AIDS carriers? What should member States and institutions do to gain a fuller understanding of the reality of the phenomenon and to deal with it more effectively? What mechanisms can be introduced to encourage counselling and voluntary testing among refugees – in particular women and girls, who are disproportionately affected by the virus – and to provide them, if they are HIV positive, with non-discriminatory access to health care? And, if an application for asylum is rejected and the person sent back to their country of origin, what can be done to ensure they continue to receive treatment?
The Parliamentary Assembly must see to it that this issue does not become trivialised. To that end, the Assembly should prepare a report to look at the situation as it really is and assess whether the responses by Council of Europe member States and other countries are appropriate and sufficiently co-ordinated.