Man with Aids faces Zimbabwe 'death sentence'

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Indy Politics

Hainy, 37, relies on a cocktail of anti-retroviral and anti-meningitis drugs to keep him alive, medication that is not available in his home country. The Home Office plans to deport him regardless, an act that will almost certainly kill him within months.

The former activist against the regime of Robert Mugabe also faces the likely attentions of the police and militants from the ruling Zanu-PF. He fled Zimbabwe in November 2001 after death threats were written on his house and fears he will be treated as a traitor if he returns.

Hainy found out he was infected with HIV in June 2002. He was supposed to have been deported on three separate dates at the beginning of July but the 5am knock on the door never came, thanks to judges calling for a suspension of deportations.

At the High Court yesterday, Mr Justice Collins received assurances from the Home Office that there would be no forced removals while officials examined new evidence about the situation in Zimbabwe.

The delay leaves Hainy and scores of others in limbo. The Home Office says 24 Zimbabwean failed asylum-seekers are "detained pending removal" but the number on bail is far higher.

"I don't want to die," Hainy says. "If things weren't so bad in Zimbabwe I would want to go back home. But it is a terrible situation there. Mugabe is destroying people's homes and people are dying in large numbers. There is no rule of law, no fuel, not much food and the economy is failing.

"I am staring death in the face. If I go, I won't get the drugs and won't survive six months. I have sleepless nights thinking about it. I don't want to die."

The former bookkeeper worries too about his wife, who was recently admitted to hospital with an undiagnosed illness, and sons, aged seven and four, back in Norton, outside Harare.

"I need to survive," he said. "I want the chance to provide for my kids. They have given me medicine for three years and to take it away would be very cruel."

Doctors have submitted medical evidence to immigration authorities on Hainy's behalf. A consultant's note from his medical records, seen by The Independent, says: "The patient ... has acquired immune deficiency syndrome and has been severely immunosuppressed. On two occasions he has had life-threatening illness ... It would be life-threatening in the very short term if he were to be denied treatment."

Despite having the world's fourth-worst rate of HIV/Aids, Zimbabwe has a tiny anti-retroviral distribution programme. The World Health Organisation says that 295,000 Zimbabweans need anti-retroviral treatment to survive, but only 8,000 receive it, almost all self-funded. Treatment costs up to Z$400,000 (£13) a month, a lot in a country where the average annual income is £270 and falling. Due to international alienation, annual donor money is just $4 (£2.25) per HIV-infected person, compared to $74 across southern Africa. Almost 2 million Zimbabweans - out of a 12.9 million population - are HIV-positive, one in four adults. The UN says the virus kills up to 230,000 Zimbabweans a year.

Since refusing Hainy asylum in August 2002 and dismissing an appeal in January 2003, the Home Office has refused to hear further representations, despite the worsening of his condition.

Andrew Colclough, director of Staffordshire Buddies, a HIV/Aids charity that has supported Hainy, said it would be "unconscionable for a civilised state to withdraw life-saving treatment knowing that in doing so it will lead to his early and painful death with Aids".

He said: "The UK assumed responsibility for his treatment more than two years ago and it is wholly unacceptable to now withdraw that."

Mark Fisher, Labour MP for Stoke-on-Trent, who has written to the Home Secretary Charles Clarke about the case, said a deportation would be "very questionable from a human rights angle". Hainy's lawyer hopes to serve papers for a judicial review, accusing the Home Office of failing to properly consider the case.