We are working with partners across the HIV sector to highlight the current worrying trend of local authorities scrapping essential HIV support services.
Why are HIV support services needed?
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. People with HIV come disproportionately from communities experiencing marginalisation, discrimination, poverty and wider significant health needs. This adds to the challenge of managing a serious long-term condition, requiring daily medication, and still stigmatised in society.
HIV support services, often provided by voluntary sector organisations, provide much needed care for people with HIV around, for example, coping with a new HIV diagnosis, stigma and disclosure, safer sex, adherence to HIV treatment, social isolation, and wider social needs. They provide psychosocial support through counselling, peer support and group sessions. They thus prevent serious ill-health, onward HIV transmission and acute social care need, so saving public money in the long term.
Public Heath England’s Positive Voices survey found that over a third of people with HIV accessed HIV support services over a 12 month period. With over 100,000 people living with HIV in the UK, HIV support services are needed now more than ever.
What services are being scrapped?
Last year saw the start of a worrying trend of local authorities across the country totally defunding HIV support services. Services in Bexley and Bromley were cut from April 2016. In September 2016 it was announced that all HIV specialist counselling and advice services are being cut in Lambeth, Southwark and Lewisham. Lambeth and Southwark have the highest rates of HIV in the country. In April 2017 Oxfordshire CCG ended all HIV support services in the county. Other councils threaten to cut funding to the point where meaningful provision is impossible.
These funding cuts are short-sighted and ill-thought through as they will ultimately lead to extra 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.
Take action now
1.Write to your local council and ask what they are doing to support local people living with HIV.
2. Show your support by signing up to the campaign.
3. Show your support for the campaign on social media using #StopHIVcuts.