Aid Organization for Refugees and Asylum Seekers in Israel

Support 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-positive 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-positive is being exclusively funded by the Health Ministry. Although the new policy is a significant step towards fulfillng of the right of asylum seekers to health, HIV carriers included, it still does not guarantee an appropriate and wholesome treatment of all HIV-positive 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 about AIDS. Therefore, only seldom do they share their condition with relatives, and usually live in solitude, fearing excommunication, should they become exposed.

ASSAF’s Assistance to Asylum Seekers with HIV/AIDS

In 2015-2019, ASSAF ran a program promoting the rights of HIV-positive asylum seekers, in cooperation with the Israel AIDS Task Force. As part of the program, HIV-positive asylum seekers received specialized assistance from communal mediators among the asylum-seeking community, and from a dedicated social worker. As part of the program, ASSAF provided information to asylum seekers to raise awareness of AIDS and HIV, information about possibilities of treatment and ways to avoid contracting the virus, as well as information aimed at changing social stigmas about the disease. In addition, ASSAF advocated with Israeli officials to alter the state’s policies toward HIV-positive asylum seekers, including expanding and improving the existing program of the Ministry of Health for dealing with this population.

Since the end of the joint program in 2019, HIV-positive asylum seekers who still require ASSAF’s assistance can contact ASSAF’s advocacy and support center and the social workers of the NGO. On all health-related issues, they can seek the support of the Israel AIDS Task Force.