The British government is planning to halve the funding it provides for HIV prevention in England next year.

Charities have spoken out against plans to slash funding for HIV Prevention England – which focusses on reducing HIV transmission in gay and bisexual men and ethnic minorities – from £2.45m to just £1.2m from April 2015.

Dr Rosemary Gillespie, Chief Executive at Terrence Higgins Trust, said: “This is not the right time for the Government to pare back spending on HIV prevention.

“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.”

Deborah Gold of the National AIDS Trust said: “This decision is simply staggering. HIV transmission shows no signs of decline, with the highest number of diagnoses among gay and bisexual men ever last year.

“Public knowledge of HIV is far too low, and myths about HIV are on the increase. We are at serious risk of going backwards on HIV if national-level investment is not made in HIV prevention. We urge the Government to think again.”

The news comes just weeks after Prime Minister David Cameron pledged support on World AIDS Day.

He claimed at the time: “British charities, scientists, social services, doctors and nurses have often led the way in dealing with HIV.

“From bringing it to public attention initially, fighting passionately for respect and treatment, through to current campaigns aimed at increasing testing. These are people are to be applauded for their commitment, innovation and passion.

“The UK has a proud track record of leading the fight internationally; last year we supported 1.9 million people with treatment for AIDS and 32,000 children benefited from child-friendly HIV/AIDS medicines.

“I am proud that as a nation we are keeping our commitments to the poorest in the world.”