People with HIV are being left isolated, and unable to speak out due to fear of stigma, charities and health associations warned.
HIV charities from Liverpool, Lecicestershire and London have united, along with health professional bodies – the British Association for Sexual Health and HIV, and the British HIV Association – have launched a new national campaign opposing cuts to HIV services across the country.
This comes after increasing numbers of local authorities are pulling funding from HIV support services. For example, services in Berkshire and Oxforshire have been cut by more than £100,000 between them. In Berkshire this means they have lost a third of their funding.
Dr Greg Ussher, the chief executive officer of METRO, a leading equality a diversity charity, providing health, community and youth services across London and the South East and national and international projects, explained: “Proposed cuts of up to 100% 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.”
Public Heath England’s national HIV figures show that in 2014 alone more than 6,000 people were diagnosed with HIV.
The director of strategy at the National Aids Trust, Yusef Azad, added HIV is “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,” he continued.
However, a Local Government Association spokesperson, speaking on behalf of the councils, said that “given that much of councils’ public health budget goes to pay for NHS services, including sexual health, government reductions to the public health budget of more than £530 million over the next five years are likely to affect the prevention services councils are able to provide, such as tackling sexually transmitted infections.
“This will put further pressure on other NHS services. We need to move away from a focus on treating sickness to actively promoting health,” they added.
Find out more about the campaign to stop the cuts here