Aid Organization for Refugees and Asylum Seekers in Israel

Support program for asylum seekers living with HIV and AIDS

According to Israel’s Health Ministry, there are 600-800 undocumented migrants in the country today – including an unknown number of asylum seekers ­– who are HIV carriers.

For many years HIV carriers and AIDS patients were not treated by the Health Ministry. Due to the inaccessibility to medical services for the general population of asylum seekers in Israel, HIV carrying migrants and AIDS patients were left exposed to difficult medical conditions and a life threatening situation.

Starting January 2014 there was an improvement in the Health Ministry towards HIV carriers and AIDS patients, and since October 2016 a program for prevention and treatment of uninsured migrants who are HIV carriers is being exclusively funded by the Health Ministry. Although the new policy is a significant positive step in the advancement towards fulfillment of the right of asylum seekers to health, including HIV carriers, it still does not guarantee an appropriate and wholesome treatment of all HIV carrying undocumented persons.

In addition to the medical and mental difficulties that come with carrying HIV, asylum seekers deal with a harsh social stigma within their communities about the virus and AIDS. Therefore, only seldom do they share their condition with relatives, and usually live in solitude, fearing excommunication, should they become exposed.

Aid to Asylum Seekers Carrying HIV and AIDS Patients in ASSAF

ASSAF conducts a program to advance the rights of asylum seekers who are HIV carriers and AIDS patients, in partnership with the Israel AIDS Task Force. In the program, asylum seekers who are HIV carriers who turn to ASSAF receive the support of communal mediators from the community of asylum seekers, as well as of a social worker. Furthermore, the program includes advocacy that is carried out among the communities of asylum seekers to raise awareness to AIDS and HIV and to treatment and prevention measures, and to transform the social image of the disease.

Alongside the direct assistance to asylum seekers, ASSAF works directly with the state authorities to promote policy reforms regarding HIV carriers and AIDS patients among the population of undocumented migrants, including the expansion and improvement of the existing program of the Health Ministry.