Dean Street sexual health clinic has been forced to cut down appointments from 350 a day to just 75.
The Express clinic – based in the heart of Soho in London – has been a vital service for LGBT+ clients and undertakes more HIV tests than any other clinic in the UK.
Now the clinic has realised that they have been forced to slash the number of appointments but are offering more “home test kits”.
They wrote on Twitter: “We’re very sorry that some people are experiencing problems getting an appointment with us.
“Our new contract means we have had to reduce the number of bookable time slots at Express from 350 to 75 per day.
“Home test kits can be ordered from our site.”
This news has alarmed sexual health campaigners following news that one of the leading PrEP research facilities has unexpectedly closed its doors.
Ian Howley, chief executive of health organization LGBT Hero/GMFA, told Gay Star News: “I find it absolutely outrageous that in a time where we are pushing for those who are at high risk to test for HIV and STIs they are coming up against a limited service and further cuts.
“Home testing is a great alternative system, but it’s not and will never be for everyone. Minors, people living with family and those in relationships are less likely to order a home testing kit.
“We need to be increasing the numbers of people testing, not reducing them.”
Matthew Hodson of HIV support organization, NAM, echoed Howley’s views and said the reduced number of HIV cases is due to clinics.
He said: “Recently we’ve seen astonishing success in driving down the number of new HIV cases, with falls of up to 29 per cent among gay and bisexual men in London in 2016.
“This success has bene due to the ability for clinics to increase the number of tests that they give to gay men so that more gay men are testing and gay men are testing more frequently more often.
“All of the success we’ve seen in recent years has been down to the availability of testing. Any progress to HIV reduction is vulnerable to these cuts.
“56 Dean Street is recognized internationally as an innovator that if they’re not able to deliver their services to meet the need it will result in higher rates of HIV.”
This isn’t the first time the clinic has had to turn away patients after it revealed last year that around 1,500 people apply daily for 300 appointment slots,
At the time, it wrote: “Sexual health services across London are under increasing pressure.
“These services are funded by Local Authorities, many of whom have experienced a budget reduction of more than 30 per cent.
“Some areas in London have closed their sexual health clinics and as a result we are experiencing an increased demand for our appointments.
“We aim to see everyone who wishes to use our services – however, it is no longer possible for all patients to be seen within 48 hours of contacting us.
“Patients will be prioritized according to clinical need.”
Cabinet Member for Family Services and Public Health Cllr Heather Acton said: “The clinicians at Dean Street have configured their services to deliver the best quality provision for people who are at high risk of contracting a sexually transmitted infection.
"More people who are not at such a high risk can now access online services and home testing, ensuring that people who need direct consultation always receive it in a timely manner.
“There has been no reduction in the delivery of frontline sexual health services in Westminster.
"We have in fact broadened services to include a pan-London online sexual health service for residents not experiencing symptoms of an STI.
"We have increased sexual health screening by 7 per cent, and condoms and other forms of contraception, alongside confidential advice and support with sexual health have been made more widely available. Rates of STI diagnosis have fallen across the borough.”