Monthly Archives: June 2016

Charity sector responds to Brexit vote

Brexit

The charity sector is reacting to the news that the UK public has voted to leave the EU.  Brendan Hill, chief executive of Concern, tweeted that “Brexit brings potentially huge implications for our sector”.

His view was echoed by the charity leaders’ network ACEVO, which is seeking an urgent summit with leading Brexiteers to establish how they propose to make good the loss of European funding to the sector.

ACEVO Chief Executive Asheem Singh recently wrote to leading Vote Leave exponents Michael Gove and Iain Duncan-Smith.

In his letter he sought assurances that any successful Brexit campaign would make good the loss of the £200m a year which the Charity Finance Group estimated to be the UK’s annual income from grants and contracts from Europe.

Singh said: “The British people have spoken and it is now mission critical that we come together to ensure a fair outcome for all. Without urgent reform, Brexit will prefigure concrete cuts tocommunity funding. It is time for immediate talks between third sector leaders and the Government to ensure this shortfall does not result in immediate and real harm, and to create a roadmap to reform of social protection legislation. We are ready to work with the Government and make this new dispensation work – but time is of the essence.”

Needed more than ever

Elsewhere, Sir Stuart Etherington, chief executive of the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, said in a blog post that the voluntary sector is needed more than ever to rebuild trust in society following the Brexit vote.

Addressing those who work in the sector, Etherington said: “Britain is facing political and economic unrest for months if not years to come. Your support and advocacy for the people and causes you work for will be essential in this climate.

“There are millions, even tens of millions in the UK who feel distanced from institutions that are meant to work on their behalf. At best apathetic, at worst, deeply hostile. Meanwhile the debate has left a bitter taste on both sides. It has served to exacerbate other divisions within our society.

Economic fall-out

The Museums Association’s director Sharon Heal warned the immediate economic fall-out of Britain leaving the EU could have consequences for the museum sector.

Heal said: “It remains to be seen what the impact of leaving the EU will be on culture and museums. There has been an immediate economic fall-out and that could have consequences for the sector.”

She called on UK museums to maintain and build upon their relationships with colleagues in Europe and elsewhere. “Museums could do a number of things whilst waiting for the dust to settle. It will be important to continue to work with our partners internationally – in Europe and further afield – we have much to learn from our colleagues globally and much to share,” said Heal.

“And we can foster conversations in our museums here. For example immigration was clearly a huge issue in the referendum and many people have questions doubts and fears on this subject. Museums are ideally placed to host these conversations with their local communities.”

Adapting and thriving

From a digital technology perspective, Julian David, CEO of techUK said work starts on today on ensuring the technology sector continues to thrive outside of the EU.

“Today the British public has decided that the UK should leave the European Union,” he said. “This is not the outcome that the majority of techUK members were hoping for. It opens up many uncertainties about the future. However, the UK tech sector will play its part in helping the UK to prepare, adapt and thrive in a future outside the European Union.

“Today, just as it was yesterday, the UK remains a great place to start, locate and grow a tech business. It is full of talented, skilled and passionate people with the ideas and creativity to make great things happen. Its consumers are eager and enthusiastic early adopters of new technology. Its world class universities are powerful engines of science and innovation and its politicians and regulators have a strong record of supporting market-led investment. We must now harness these assets like never before and build a world-beating ecosystem for tech that continues the great British tradition of inventing the future.

“Today, at techUK we start work with our members to map out this new future. There will be a long to-do list with many policy and regulatory issues requiring urgent action. Tech companies will need to come together and speak with one voice to ensure their needs are understood and acted upon. To succeed, the UK tech sector needs great people, great infrastructure, world-class science and research, unfettered access to global markets, and a world-class smart and predictable regulatory environment. Without the benefits of EU membership, the UK needs to be at its very best to succeed. That remains our purpose. To make the UK the best place in the world for tech.”

Innovative solutions

Alex Day, director of The Big Give, said: “I am sure the referendum result has been a shock to everyone regardless of which way they voted. It will be a case of ‘wait and see’ what the impacts are for the charity sector but I think most charities will be rightly concerned about any negative impacts to the UK economy brought about by the result. If today’s decision results in a slowing of the growth or even decline in the economy, we could face increased demand for charity services coupled with a decrease in the amount of funding, both statutory and voluntary, available to them. I believe many charities over the coming weeks will be considering their income streams and many may take the approach of ‘plan for the worst and hope for the best’.

“If the UK does enter a period of economic decline, charities and funders alike will need to look at innovative solutions to curb the effects of an economic downturn. For example, the Big Give has recently released research which demonstrates the effectiveness of match funding as a fundraising and funding tool; to both inspire donors to give and to ensure funders gain maximum leverage on their philanthropy. Even amidst the economic downturn, in 2010 our annual online match funding campaign, the Christmas Challenge still raised £9.3m for 323 charities. In any environment where demand for charity services increases and cuts occur, we would urge policy makers and funders to do all they can to protect the work of the sector. We would also encourage charities to take the opportunity to think innovatively to ensure they continue to deliver maximum impact to their beneficiaries.”

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Harry to take on Princess Diana’s cause by making fight against HIV a priority.

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Prince Harry is to follow in the footsteps of his mother Diana, Princess of Wales and make the fight against HIV a major part of his public work.

Harry is to speak at an international Aids conference in South Africa next month and will carry out other high profile events including meeting doctors and nurses caring for HIV-positive patients in South London and visit an innovative sexual health service.

His decision has been welcomed by HIV charities and organisations who have said his involvement with the issue will help shine a spotlight on the “epidemic” of people contracting the virus.

Diana was the first member of the royal family to have contact with a person living with HIV.  In the late 1980s when many still believed the disease could be contracted through casual contact, she sat on the sickbed of a man with Aids and held his hand.

Princess Diana and Barbara Bush Above meeting people with HIV/AIDS at an AIDS clinic at Middlesex Hospital in 1991.

Both publicly and privately she supported the work of those helping patients, with late-night trips to east London’s Mildmay HIV hospice.

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Princess Diana visited LASS in November 1991 and is deeply impressed by our work. Her visit is used to launch the ‘Famous Friends of LASS’ initiative, with over 60 celebrities signing up to offer their voice and support for people living with HIV.

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Harry’s charity Sentebale already focuses on supporting HIV positive young people in the African nation of Lesotho but the prince now aims to spread the message to his generation that the fight against HIV has not yet been won, Kensington Palace has said.

The Prince hopes to convene leading figures in this sector and support their vital work in ensuring that everyone – and young people in particular – get the help they deserve, his office added.

Diana was the NAT’s patron from 1991 until her death in 1997, supporting the policy and campaigning organisation which attempts to inform opinion.

Deborah Gold, the organisation’s chief executive, said: “I think the focus on HIV in the UK has moved but it continues to be an issue with rising numbers every year – getting attention on that gets more and more difficult.

“I think Prince Harry really focuses on that and will help to draw attention to that. It’s something he genuinely cares about and his charity Sentebale has been work with this for 10 years.”

She described the numbers of people contracting the virus as an epidemic, with the latest figures from Public Health England showing in 2014 there were an estimated 103,700 people living with the disease in the UK, with 17% of these not aware of their infection.

In 2014 almost 85,500 people were accessing HIV treatment and care, more than double the number (41,157) in 2004, and a 5% increase on 2013.

Ian Green, chief executive of the Terrence Higgins Trust, said: “We warmly welcome Prince Harry’s commitment to helping tackle the HIV epidemic here in the UK, and look forward to working with His Royal Highness to tackle stigma, increase testing and prevent HIV transmission.”

He added: “Incredible medical progress has been made in HIV treatment over the last 20 years, but attitudes and awareness of HIV haven’t kept up with these advances.

“The devastating impact of HIV stigma cannot be underestimated – it is a well known barrier stopping people getting tested and onto effective treatment, as people fear reactions from friends, family, colleagues and their community, should they test positive.”

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Faith leaders undergo public HIV test to help battle against stigma.

The Most Revd Ephraim S Fajutagana, Supreme Bishop of the Philippine Independent Church, undergoes an HIV test as part of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines public campaign to remove the stigma associated with HIV/Aids.

The Most Revd Ephraim S Fajutagana, Supreme Bishop of the Philippine Independent Church, undergoes an HIV test as part of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines public campaign to remove the stigma associated with HIV/Aids.

Christian leaders in the Philippines have undergone public HIV tests as part of a campaign against the stigmatisation of people with HIV. The Revd Rex Reyes Jr, general secretary of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP), told a press conference at the World Council of Churches’ Central Council meeting in Trondheim, Norway, this afternoon that it was part of an “aggressive educational awareness programme.”

Reyes, a priest of the Episcopal Church in the Philippines, said that the “strong religious flavour” in the country was a defining issue in the way some people behave towards people living with HIV; and that the public HIV tests was part of a “more practical way” of dealing with the stigma.

Church leaders were undergoing HIV tests not because they thought they might have the virus; but “to project the necessity of HIV testing for our young people.”

He said: “Our young people are afraid to go for testing because of the discrimination that comes with it, because of the religious taboo that has been hammered home for a long time, the concept of sin and the notion of immorality, and so on.”

In addition to promoting HIV testing, the campaign was also designed to challenge young people on the issue of not discrimination and human dignity, Reyes said.

The stigma associated with HIV led to a large public backlash when a photograph of Reyes undergoing an HIV test was displayed on a huge billboard on the main highway in the country. “I was bashed for that and there was strong reaction from my colleagues to issue a statement,” he said. “But we [decided to] let it pass, because at least people are talking about it.”

He said that churches in the Philippines were working together on their approach to HIV. “It is stronger that way,” he said. “The theological issues are easier to deal with when we talk together.

“We recognise churches when they have their own initiative – and that is good. But to drive the point that HIV transcends denominations [and] transcends faith. We have to deal with that in an ecumenical way and I’m very glad that the WCC is leading in this area.”

As Leicester is such a multicultural city with a wide range of people of faith, this approach could easily be adopted and help combat not only diagnosed HIV infection, but to help reduce HIV stigma in our great city.  Something which both HIV organisations and faith leaders have in common.

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About the crisis, no not the referendum.. the sexual health crisis!

hangingout

Sexual health and HIV agencies have been left out to dry.

The UK is facing a rising demand for sexual health and contraceptive care. Unacceptable levels of sexual coercion and female genital mutilation (FGM) are being reported, sexually transmitted infection (STI) diagnoses are increasing [pdf], and the UK still has the highest rate of teenage pregnancy in western Europe.

Despite all of this, key services are facing monstrous budget cuts alongside so many other sectors of our increasingly weary NHS. This means clinic closures, the dissolution of preventative health programmes, further pressure on already overloaded GP practices, and horrifying long-term financial costs.

In truth, sexual health services have suffered financially for some time. With the implementation of the Health and Social Care Act 2012, responsibility for sexual health funding was allocated to local authorities and these services put out to tender [pdf].

Private companies can bid for control over them, which the government claimed would improve standards “through competition and choice”. In reality, the winning bids are often ones that offer immediate cost-saving rather than long-term financial benefits and the best possible standards of care.

In 2015, the government announced its £200m public health budget cut, resulting in local councils spending millions of pounds less than planned on sexual health services nationwide. Add to this a potential 40% cut in central funding to local authorities [pdf] and you can see how pressure is mounting.

Elizabeth Carlin, president of the British Association of Sexual Health and HIV (Bashh), is one of many specialists to express concern. “Sexual health services play a key role in protecting the health of the nation,” she says. “Coordinated care with sufficient funding is crucial.”

So, what do these services actually do – and what would be the repercussions of service dismantlement?

Let’s start with sexual violence. Approximately 85,000 women and 12,000 men are raped in England and Wales alone every year [pdf]. That’s roughly 11 adult rapes per hour. Over 1,200 victims of FGM were recorded between January and March this year, and unknown numbers of girls and women remain unprotected. Gang violence and grooming are increasingly recognised and the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community remains at risk from stigma and discrimination. Sexual health services identify and support these vulnerable groups every day so the ramifications of reducing access to this support and expertise will be far-reaching and significant.

Recent coverage of NHS England’s decision not to fund the provision to high-risk individuals of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) – a highly effective HIV-prevention drug – highlighted the extent of our HIV epidemic. About 17% of infected individuals in the UK are unaware of their positive status and an estimated one in 20 men who have sex with men (MSM) aged 15–44 are living with HIV. Sexual health services are responsible for huge proportions of HIV testing, education and specialist care for newly-diagnosed individuals.

STIs remain problematic, particularly in MSM, with a 46% increase in syphilis and 32% increase in gonorrhoea reported in this group by Public Health England [pdf] in 2014. The threat of gonococcal resistance also persists, with the frightening possibility that we could end up with no effective treatment for an infection that affects up to 30,000 people in the UK every year. Expert services are essential to ensure the public is tested, managed and educated to reduce STI transmission and prevent long-term health problems.

Teen conception rates are another important measure of the state of health and society for local councils, yet the UK continues to have the highest figures in western Europe. The Family Planning Association (FPA) 2015 report Unprotected Nation estimates that additional unintended pregnancies due to budget cuts could cost up to £8.3bn over the next five years. That’s coupled with the countless women who will deal with the mental and physical implications of an unwanted pregnancy or abortion. In essence, an unforgivable removal of choice from the UK public.

This list of problems is by no means exhaustive. While the health budget remains a challenge and all the unpleasant health problems associated with sex are easier to ignore, the government’s failure to openly address these issues, support sexual choice and put their long-vision specs on will only take us back to the times we’ve worked so hard to leave behind.

Let’s just hope they’re ready to confront the repercussions of their actions – warts and all.

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LASS & Faith In People

LASS

Commencing from 8th June 2016, a new Information and Advice Service for people with HIV and their carers.

  • Access to computers
  • Access to telephones
  • Experienced and qualified advisors

This service will help you navigate the systems and point you to where you can access benefits, housing, debt, the NHS, employment, immigration and other issues. The services are available from both LASS and Faith in People at the following times-

Day LASS Faith in People
Monday By appointment, self-help, telephone and email

11.30 am – 4:30pm

By appointment and Telephone and email. 8am – 12:30pm
Tuesday Drop in, face to face advisor support and self-help.

10am – 4.30

By appointment and telephone and email. 8am-12:30pm

 

Wednesday By appointment, self-help, telephone and email

10am – 4:30pm

5.30-7.30 by telephone only

Telephone, email, Drop In  and by appointment 8am-4:00pm
Thursday By appointment, telephone and email

10am – 4:30pm

By appointment and Telephone and email
Friday Drop in, face to face advisor support and self-help.

10am – 4.30pm

Telephone and email
Weekends No Service Telephone Only

Please use only one service for each issue. Duplication doesn’t speed up processes, it makes them more complicated. If a service is needed urgently, staff will arrange referrals between the organisations.

Both services continue to provide a range of support with other funding. Please see our leaflets, websites, blogs or social media for more information.

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Scientists map the global spread of HIV – through the Western world and beyond – for the first time

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Global migration patterns of HIV-1 subtype B estimated by statistical phylogeography under the geographical grouping strategy 1. Colors indicate different geographic regions (highlighted countries) from which HIV-1 sequences were available. Arrows indicate the direction of subtype B spread. Dots for different geographic areas are placed in the center of each area.

For the first time, an international team of scientists from the European Society for Translational Antiviral Research (ESAR) has mapped the spread of the HIV virus around the globe after it reached the United States in the early 1970s.

Story direct from Oxford University
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The major study, published in the Journal of Molecular Epidemiology and Evolutionary Genetics of Infectious Diseases (MEEGID), finds that HIV travelled from the US to Western Europe on a number of occasions, whereas Central and Eastern Europe remained isolated for the most part of the early epidemic.

Analysis of thousands of genome sequences shows that geopolitical events such as the fall of the Iron Curtain had a big impact on human migration patterns within Europe and thus the spread of the virus through the continent.

Co-lead author Dr Gkikas Magiorkinis, of the Department of Zoology at Oxford University, said: ‘The story of HIV up to its arrival in the US is already known. What happened after that, however, has been unclear. We wanted to see how HIV spread in the Western world.

‘One of our main findings is that North America was spreading the virus much more than importing it, whereas Europe was absorbing the infection.’

Co-lead author Assistant Professor Dimitrios Paraskevis, of the Department of Hygiene, Epidemiology and Medical Statistics at the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, said: ‘Another striking finding is the clear segregation between Eastern and Western Europe in the early days of the virus, which probably has to do with the political situation on the continent. These distinct strains in Eastern and Western Europe were able to connect again in the 1990s once movement became less curtailed.’

Human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) was discovered in the early 1980s, when the virus had already established a pandemic. For at least three decades the epidemic in the Western world has been dominated by subtype B infections as part of a sub-epidemic that travelled from Africa through Haiti to the US. However, the pattern of the subsequent spread still remains poorly understood.

The researchers analysed almost 9,000 genomes of globally representative HIV-1 subtype B strains to map their spread around the world over the past 50 years and to highlight any significant spread patterns. They show that subtype B travelled from North America to Western Europe on different occasions, while Central and Eastern Europe remained isolated for the most part of the early epidemic.

Looking at Europe in more detail, the study shows that the UK, France and Switzerland all exchanged viral isolates more often with non-European countries than with European ones. The observed pattern is likely to mirror geopolitical landmarks in the post-World War II era – namely, the rise and fall of the Iron Curtain – and traditional links between countries as a result of European colonialism.

HIV-1 therefore spread along specific migration routes that are consistent with geopolitical factors that affected human activities during the past 50 years, such as migration, tourism and trade. The researchers say their findings support the argument that epidemic control policies should be global and incorporate political and socioeconomic factors.

Dr Magiorkinis added: ‘Viral dynamics are influenced by host ecology, and human ecology is defined by geopolitics. It is not surprising that a country’s influence is strongly linked to its role in spreading the virus – HIV simply followed the natural cultural flows of the second half of the 20th century, moving from North America to Europe. In this study, we can also see the effects of the traditional links of the UK and France with non-European countries.’

Assistant Professor Paraskevis said: ‘This study shows how important it is that policies to prevent the spread of infections are set up on a global scale, and that we understand how – much like in economics – an epidemic in an influential country is likely to have an effect in almost every other part of the world.’

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We’ve gone and done it, WE’RE ON INSTAGRAM NOW!

instagram

Things change, you change, we change, funding for HIV services change but despite some of the difficulties in the sector, we seem to be connected better than ever before thanks in part to Social Media.

We’d like to introduce to you, our new Instagram account: LASSLeics. You’ll find pictures of events, of our resources and general nice things to look at, not all necessarily HIV related but you can be sure to be visually treated.

As a recap, we wanted to ensure you know where we are online so you can use whatever service you use to follow and keep in touch with us.

Website

This will always be http://www.lass.org.uk.  Our site features information on HIV testing (which can be free) and you get your result straight away! It also states what our services are, policies and contact information.  We’re actually updating our site so stay tuned for more updates.

Blog

http://blog.lass.org.uk. (What you’re reading now).  Here we share what’s new both at LASS, Well for Living and we curate some of the most interesting stories relating to HIV in the world.  Our blog is updated frequently, to keep up to date you might want to subscribe or follow us on Facebook or Twitter.

Facebook

https://www.facebook.com/lassleics.  We realise that blogs aren’t everyones cup of tea and that lots of people prefer to stay up to date on facebook which is why we link our blog posts to Facebook.  Whenever we publish a new blog post it’s automatically sent to Facebook.  It doesn’t matter if you comment on the blog or on Facebook, we’ll still see your comments.

Twitter

https://twitter.com/LASSleics Like facebook, Twitter will tweet each article as we publish it.  Unlike Facebook we get involved in conversations and tweet or retweet news and information which may be of interest, not only on HIV but for sex and sex education and health related information.  Why not follow us and join in the conversation?

Instagram (new)

Instagram  (https://www.instagram.com/lassleics) is our newest social media profile and it’s run by our support worker Rhoda Thomas.  We’re short on followers at the moment and we hope you’ll visit and interact with us over there, just as you do on our other platforms.

Feel free to connect to us on any platform, if we don’t follow you already, just send us a message and we’ll gladly connect.  It’s good to talk and it’s nice to see you online!

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TWB  FBB

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