HIV charities National AIDS Trust and Terrence Higgins Trust have warned that vital HIV services may be cut in the government’s plans to save money.

Communities secretary Eric Pickles announced in a written ministerial statement last week that the AIDS Support Grant will not be ringfenced this year.

The grant is given to local authorities to pay for services specific to people with HIV, such as counselling, peer support, staff training, support for carers and respite care.

Ringfencing the money means it must be spent on a specific service, rather than the local authority being free to spend it on what it sees fit.

HIV campaigners say those living with the disease often face prejudice in mainstream health services and older people in particular can be fearful of using them.

Announcing the cuts, Mr Pickles said the government had made clear that deficit reduction was its “most urgent priority”.

The grants which will not longer be ring-fenced are the £25 million HIV/AIDS support revenue grant and the £3.1 million capital grant.

Deborah Jack, NAT chief executive, said: “Until now the ringfence has ensured local investment in social care services for people living with HIV whose needs might otherwise be ignored due to the stigma and discrimination which still exists in our society.

“Many local HIV organisations rely on money from the AIDS Support Grant to carry out their vital services.

“We are urgently seeking assurances from the government that steps will be taken to ensure local authorities continue to meet the social care needs of people living with HIV.”

NAT says it has requested a meeting with Mr Pickles and has also contacted Paul Burstow, the new minister for social care services.

Lisa Power, head of policy at THT, told PinkNews.co.uk: “We’re very concerned.

“We are talking to our funders on a local basis and showing them the base evidences for these services and urging other agencies to do the same.

“Often, mainstream services don’t cater for people with HIV. Our upcoming research shows older people are very worried about using mainstream services. We’ve heard stories of nurses refusing to do home visits when they realise someone is HIV-positive. It’s about other things too, such as social interaction and benefits advice.”

She continued: “If it is not ringfenced, we need to make a very clear case. If people with HIV – and your readers – are worried, they need to contact their local authority as a taxpayer and say ‘I hope you will continue this’.”

“It’s about people power now.”