Tag Archives: funding cuts

Dear Jeremy Hunt, please #StopHIVCuts

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#StopHIVCuts have written to Secretary of State for Health, Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt calling for a meeting to discuss the impact of significantly reduced funding for HIV support services.

Read about the #StopHIVCuts campaign here.

Dear Secretary of State

We are writing to you as a group of HIV and sexual health organisations and people with HIV to share our increasing concern at the trend by local authorities across England to decommission HIV support services.

Coping with an HIV diagnosis and living with HIV long-term can be stressful and challenging, with personal relationships, long-term health, employment and finances all being significantly affected. HIV support services are an integral part of helping people deal with changes brought on by a condition that still carries with it much stigma and affects some of the most vulnerable and excluded people in our society.  They also prevent further HIV transmission by supporting people with HIV in safer sex and adherence to medication.

With over 103,000 people in the UK living with HIV in 2014, HIV support services are needed more than ever. Evidence suggests more than a third of people with diagnosed HIV need to access these vital services in any 12-month period. They are widely agreed to be an essential element in the HIV care pathway, supporting long-term condition management, by (for example) NHS, England and BHIVA.

2015, however, saw a worrying trend of local authorities across the country defunding totally HIV support services. In Oxfordshire, Bromley, Norfolk, Portsmouth, Slough, Bracknell Forest and Bexley, the local councils are set to scrap this essential provision. We understand more councils may follow – either defunding completely or cutting funding to the point where meaningful provision is impossible.

Many of the organisations affected by these cuts also provide HIV prevention for individuals at the highest risk of HIV – vital interventions that will ultimately prevent new HIV infections and save the NHS much needed cash in HIV treatment costs. The estimated cost of lifetime HIV treatment is up to £360,000 per person.  The future of such preventive work is also put in jeopardy by this disinvestment.

These funding cuts are short-sighted and ill-thought through as they will ultimately lead to extra cost pressures on health and social care as people with HIV fall into acute need and crisis, as well as significant costs to the NHS from an increase in onward HIV transmission.

Whilst of course these cuts are being made by local authorities, we strongly believe you can and should influence these decisions. The Health and Social Care Act 2012 left HIV support services without a clear commissioning home, and therefore especially vulnerable to defunding.  As a result, we risk the loss of community-based services which have been a mainstay of our HIV response since the early days of the epidemic and of which we should be very proud. A clear statement from the Government on the importance of these services and action to bring stakeholders together and agree a sustainable basis for their commissioning and provision are urgently needed.

We are asking for a meeting as soon as possible with you to discuss how we can together provide a health and social care system that works for the needs of people living with HIV.

Please correspond with Deborah Gold, Chief Executive, NAT

[Letter Ends – Signed by #StopHIVCuts]

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 do this right now by clicking here: http://act.lifewithhiv.org.uk/lobby/stopcuts.

Will you  offer your support?

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David Cameron’s HIV Hypocrisy

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Just a few weeks ago David Cameron and other MPs sat in the House of Commons and wore red World AIDS Day ribbons for a community they clearly don’t understand.

“The ribbon is the universal symbol of HIV awareness and it was good to see so many MPs showing solidarity with people who live with HIV in the UK and around the world,”  ​said Cameron in his statement on December 1st. “Whilst the overall number of new diagnoses last year was down slightly on 2010, there was an increase amongst men who have sex with men. And a quarter of people living with HIV don’t know they have it. I am absolutely clear that there can be no complacency in our fight against HIV and AIDS.”

Cameron concluded by saying how the red ribbon is about more than showing solidarity with those living with HIV in the UK and abroad.

“It should also be a spur to increase testing and a symbol of our commitment to carrying on work to reduce infection levels whilst tackling the stigma, discrimination and prejudice often associated with HIV and sexual health.”

But we’ve heard it all before. Politicians deliver compassionate messages one day and deliver crushing blows the next. Despite more and more young people  ​being diagnosed HIV positive because of a lack of information about the issue, the government has announced that there will be ​devastating cuts to the national HIV prevention programme in England.

Funding will be halved for the year commencing April 2015 and there is, as yet, no government commitment to fund further years of the programme. It seems like yet another complete refusal to believe that the most imperative is needed at ground-level.

“This is not the right time for the government to pare back spending on HIV prevention,” says Dr Rosemary Gillespie, Chief Executive at  ​Terrence Higgins Trust. “In recent years, we have made good progress in driving down rates of undiagnosed and late-diagnosed HIV. However, tens of thousands of people with HIV across England are still undiagnosed and at increased risk of passing the virus on unwittingly. We have not yet reached the tipping point in our fight against the epidemic, and halving government spending on HIV prevention now would be a regressive step that risks undermining the headway we have made.”

The government’s ill-considered decision is in direct contradiction to Simon Stevens’ ‘ ​NHS Five Year Forward View‘, released in October. “The future health of millions of children, the sustainability of the NHS, and the economic prosperity of Britain all now depend on a radical upgrade in prevention and public health,” he wrote. “Twelve years ago, Derek Wanless’ health review warned that unless the country took prevention seriously we would be faced with a sharply rising burden of avoidable illness. That warning has not been heeded – and the NHS is on the hook for the consequences.”

Stevens’ report has been immensely influential and all the main political parties have expressed their support for its vision for the future of the NHS. It is striking that, within weeks of the government stating its support for the health vision of this publication, they are expressly contradicting one if its key tenets – the absolute centrality of prevention if we are to regain control of NHS finances.

“We have not yet reached the tipping point in our fight against the epidemic, and halving government spending on HIV prevention now would be a regressive step that risks undermining the headway we have made”  – Dr Rosemary Gillespie, Chief Executive, Terrence Higgins Trust

In 2004 there were 38,117 people with diagnosed HIV living in England. In 2013, that figure had risen to 74,760. Meanwhile, funding for HIV prevention work has drastically declined during that same period while transmission rates soared. Rather than increasing its efforts to tackle the spread of HIV and the existing stigma, the government’s response is to further squeeze the sector of its resources.

What’s more shocking still is how the government cuts affect two specific minority communities. The national HIV prevention programme focuses on two groups – men who have sex with men, and black African men and women. Yusef Azad of  ​National AIDS Trust agrees that the government is ignoring the needs of these communities.

“HIV is a health inequalities issue, since it disproportionately affects these minorities. Were British-born heterosexuals seeing the same percentages getting HIV as gay men and Africans there would be immense efforts by government to address the problem. When gay men and Africans experience such a public health crisis the response is to reduce further already inadequate funding.”

What this farce highlights is that the government, yet again, is looking for short-term gain at long-term sacrifice. Save money today, but let’s not think about the consequences of tomorrow.  Azad agrees. “All governments pay lip-service to this principle and to the fact prevention is cost-effective and often cost-saving. It is only in a time of budgetary pressure that we learn whether they really mean it.

Preventing just one HIV transmission saves the public purse ​£360,777, according to recent modelling. The national prevention programme pays for itself many times over. “This cut will not save £1 million, says Azad. “It will mean spending many millions in preventable treatment costs.”

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