Sexual health charity leaders have come together to write an open letter to the government urging the reversal of devastating funding cuts which have seen local councils scale back local HIV services.
HIV charities from Liverpool (Sahir Trust) to Leicestershire (LASS) to London have come together with health professional bodies, British Association for Sexual Health and HIV (BASHH), and British HIV Association have come together to launch a new national campaign opposing cuts to HIV services across the country - 'Support people with HIV: Stop the cuts'
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.
Alex Sparrowhawk, Membership and Involvement Officer Terrence Higgins Trust said: “As a person living with HIV, I can prove to Jeremy Hunt that HIV support services are vital to dealing with your diagnosis and managing this health condition.
“The national campaign is about sounding the alarm to policy makers, councils, and the public - these essential services are under serious threat and we need your help.
“At a time when rates of HIV are increasing, stigma is as apparent as ever, we are seeing the start of a disturbing trend of local authorities across the country scrapping HIV services.”
HIV services in both Berkshire and Oxfordshire, run by Thames Valley Support and Terrence Higgins Trust respectively, have been cut by over £100,000 between them. In Portsmouth, the HIV support service provided by Positive Action has been granted less than half the funding it usually received from Portsmouth City Council.
Meanwhile, Oxfordshire County Council has cut Terrence Higgins Trust’s £50,000 funding, which is forcing the closure of its local centre.
The news comes despite Public Heath England’s national HIV figures indicating that over 6,000 people were diagnosed with HIV in 2014 alone.
Yusef Azad, Director of Strategy National Aids Trust: “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.”
Another backer of the campaign, METRO Charity CEO Dr Greg Ussher, adds: “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.”
For more information, visit stophivcuts.org.
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