Discussing what keeps immigrants from care

    Doctors, health workers and public officials gathered at the University of Pennsylvania for a city-wide conversation on the health of Philadelphia’s immigrants Friday.

    Doctors, health workers and public officials gathered at the University of Pennsylvania for a city-wide conversation on the health of Philadelphia’s immigrants Friday.

    Listen:

    [audio:091030teimmigrant.mp3]

    Health workers discussed the operations of clinics serving Latinos in south Philadelphia, Indonesians in Chinatown and Bhutanese refugees in Center City.

    Philadelphia Department of Health chief of staff Nan Feyler says she is looking for ways to knock down health barriers for all of the city’s immigrants.

    Feyler: If they are not here with legal status, it should make no difference in their equal treatment. If they have limited English proficiency it should make no difference in their treatment and in their access.

    Feyler says many of the city’s immigrant children qualify for free or low-cost care through Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance programs, but many do not use the services because they are afraid they will be deported.

    More than 500,000 people in the Philadelphia region are foreign born, according to the Washington think tank the Brookings Institute.

    Helena Kwakwa leads HIV services for the Philadelphia Health Department. She says the stigmas surrounding the AIDS virus are so strong in some ethnic communities that people are afraid to be seen in a city clinic.

    Kwakwa was counseling an African woman with HIV when the patient recognized another woman from her community in the waiting room.

    Kwakwa:The visit was going nowhere. I literally had to step out of the room, and get one of the doctors who didn’t treat HIV to step into the room and sit with her for five minutes and walk out with her as though she had seen her, she just didn’t want to seen with me.

    Of the HIV positive immigrants in Philadelphia, more than 70 percent are from Africa or the Caribbean.

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