Nigel Farage, whose UKIP party has recently been voted into its first UK Parliamentary seat, has declared he would keep HIV-positive migrants out of the UK. In an interview with Newsweek Europe, he said in comments which have been described as ‘ignorant and stigmatising’ that Britain’s ‘problem’ with immigrants stems from its policy of allowing in anyone from the EU – even though the policy works to the advantage of approximately 2.2 million Britons who choose to live in other EU states.

Farage said: ‘[Skilled non-EU citizens] are discriminated against because we have an open door into Europe. Today, if you’re an Indian engineer, say, your chances of admission are limited. UKIP want to control the quantity and quality of people who come.’

Farage made his remarks about HIV after his interviewer, Robert Chalmers, asked a provocative question about Zimbabweans travelling to Britain. Chalmers suggested that a Zimbabwean with the wrong skills, ‘the wrong colour skin’, and perhaps with HIV would not be welcomed to Britain by UKIP. When asked what sort of people should be allowed to migrate to Britain, he said: ‘People who do not have HIV, to be frank. That’s a good start.’

Dr Rosemary Gillespie, Chief Executive at Terrence Higgins Trust, commented: ‘The idea that having HIV should be used as a black mark against someone’s name is ridiculous, and shows an outrageous lack of understanding of the issue. It is to the UK’s credit that for more than three decades successive governments, no matter their political stamp, have refused to put in place border controls against people living with HIV. Major international organisations, including the United Nations, agree that such draconian measures would have no impact on the epidemic. In bracketing those living with the condition with murderers, and suggesting there is no place for them in his vision of Britain, Mr Farage has stooped to a new level of ignorance.’

HIV charity Positive East, meanwhile, has said that Farage is plain ‘wrong’, adding that advances in HIV medication over the last 20 years means people with HIV can now live a full and productive life and aren’t infectious to anyone else. ‘In addition,’ they say, ‘the virus doesn’t show up immediately in tests, so testing at borders is meaningless as people recently infected won’t be identified.’

Mark Santos, the charity’s director, added: ‘The biggest hurdle people with HIV have to overcome in the UK is other people’s ignorance and prejudice about the condition. All Nigel Farage has done is make it harder for thousands of people to just get on with the rest of their lives, living with something that doesn’t have a cure.’

The US had a complete ban on anyone with HIV entering the country from 1987 until the rule was rescinded by Barack Obama in 2009.