For the individual patient living with a communicable or chronic condition, starting and adhering to treatment is paramount to slow disease progression, avert further damage to the body and can enable them to achieve happy, healthy and fulfilling lives.
Furthermore, treatment can act as a public good. In the case of certain communicable diseases, treating the index patient can assist to prevent secondary transmission; while reducing the incidence of disease progression and consequently further health complications can aid to lessen the burden on emergency healthcare services and social services. A healthy population is more likely to contribute to a productive society, through advancing knowledge and skills, and engaging in employment.
1 . ACCESSIBILITY OF TREATMENT IN EUROPE
We recommend that regardless of their immigration status, each African migrant living in Europe who is afflicted with a communicable condition has sustained access to medication to treat and/or cure their illness. This accessibility of treatment should be provided to African migrants on the same terms as it is awarded to European nationals, for example, through universally funded healthcare programmes.
Moreover, we urge that African patients living in Europe are offered access to the most effortless treatment options approved by the European Medicines Agency, including medications with fewer and less invasive side-effects, and treatment options that require a less complicated and disruptive regimen. We believe that an easier treatment routine can better contribute to adherence to medication, without infringing on a patient’s ability to carry out their daily tasks, or jeopardising their long-term health.
2 . AN OPPORTUNITY TO MAKE INFORMED TREATMENT CHOICES
In order to empower and enable patients to take control of their health and well-being, we advise that Africans living in Europe should have access to information regarding their condition, the purpose and function of the various treatment options available, to be explained the routines associated with different treatments, as well as the consequences of non-adherence to treatment.
Furthermore, we recommend that, where possible, patients are afforded the right to choose the most appropriate treatment options relevant to their particular lifestyles and needs; since we believe that this approach can aid correct and consistent adherence to medication.
3 . ACCESS TO CULTURALLY SENSITIVE HEALTHCARE PRACTITIONERS
We recommend that as part of their continuing professional development, healthcare professionals enhance their knowledge regarding the cultural, religious, traditional, familial and social intricacies that accompany their African patients’ beliefs and reactions to their conditions. This approach can enable greater productive discourse between healthcare professionals and their African patients who are living in Europe; which can assist patients to overcome the numerous challenges associated with illness, to develop better understanding of their condition, be prescribed the most appropriate treatment options, and for patients to maintain adherence to their medication.
4 . OPPORTUNITY TO RECEIVE ADHERENCE SUPPORT
We suggest that upon diagnosis or initial consultation with medical professionals, African patients living in Europe are offered access to counselling and peer support activities. This requires governing bodies to augment their appreciation of the value of peer support, as well as the provision of resources for community groups to offer training and monitoring of peer support services within a number of locations. The opportunity for patients to talk about their experiences and to gain advice from others who have a direct understanding of what it is like to live with a communicable or chronic condition can help patients to overcome denial, internalised stigmatisation, and to develop coping strategies and tools to maintain adherence to medication.