HIV and sexual health charities unite in action against government cuts

Published: 25 October 2016 Tags: Stop, Cuts, Campaign, HIV By John Walding

LGBT Foundation alongside other HIV and sexual health charities from across the UK have come together with health professional bodies, the British Association for Sexual Health and HIV (BASHH), and British HIV Association to launch a new national campaign opposing cuts to HIV services across the country -‘Support people with HIV: Stop the cuts’.

Increasing numbers of local authorities are pulling funding from HIV support services. The campaign has written to Secretary of State for Health, Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt. calling for a meeting to discuss the impact of these cuts, demand effective commissioning, adequate funding, and access to support services for all people living with HIV. The signatories of the letter includes LGBT Foundation's Chief Executive, Paul Martin OBE.

Public Heath England’s national HIV figures show that in 2014 alone over 6,000 people were diagnosed with HIV, while People Living with HIV Stigma Index UK - found that stigma had prevented 15 per cent of people surveyed from accessing their GP in the last year, and 66 per cent had avoided dental care.

14 per cent had received negative comments from healthcare workers. Despite the obvious roles specialist HIV support services play in combatting this they are being reduced to almost ineffective levels, or cut completely, in a short term cash save measure.

Yusef Azad, Director of Strategy National Aids Trust, said: “HIV remains a stigmatised and misunderstood condition. It’s not the same as other health issues where people can rely of support and sympathy from friends and colleagues. HIV support services can be the only place where people are open about their status, the only places they can find advice and support, the only place they can talk to other people with HIV.

"They are an essential component of the long-term care of people with HIV. To remove them would leave a lot of vulnerable people stranded.”

The Treasury last year announced it was cutting public health budgets in-year by £200 million with reductions in the funding for public health set to continue this year. The feasibility of the Chancellor’s plan to allow local authorities to income generate to fund social care services will be tested in poorer areas of the country – those areas that also see the highest rates of HIV.

Dr Greg Ussher, METRO Charity CEO, said: “People living with HIV can be some of the most vulnerable members of our communities. Proposed cuts of up to 100 per cent to HIV support services will decimate vital provision for people that cannot speak out against their local authority’s plans for fear of the stigma publicly disclosing their HIV status might bring.”

Support people with HIV: Stop the cuts' is also appealing to members of the public to take an e-action to show their support - write to their local council leader and ask what the council is doing to support local people living with HIV. You can write a letter in support of the campaign to your local council leader by following the link here.