Current Affairs

Shadow health minister Diane Abbott attacks cuts to HIV funding

Jessica Geen March 29, 2011
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Shadow health minister Diane Abbott has claimed that changes to funding for London HIV services will “threaten and marginalise” gay and bisexual people.

Last week, reported that HIV charities in the capital had been told that the NHS primary care trusts (PCTs) which help to fund their work would be slashing their budgets by 43 per cent.

This came after new figures which showed that gay and bisexual HIV diagnoses had risen 70 per cent in the last decade.

Groups including GMFA, Terrence Higgins Trust and PACE were told that although 21 PCTs in London wish to continue the work, only six-month contracts with reduced funding can be offered at present because PCTs are “not able to continue to commit at commensurate financial levels going forward”.

The charities use the funds for a range of HIV prevention initiatives, such as support websites and meetings.

Ms Abbott said: “These cuts will turn back the clock on HIV prevention work.

“David Cameron’s Big Society does not seem to include those people at risk from HIV. Whilst HIV is relevant to every member of the public, it does disproportionately affect particular groups in the UK, and it is right that our attention and resources respond appropriately.

“To threaten and marginalise Britain’s gay and bisexual communities with these savage cuts, without any kind of impact assessment, is appalling.”

Ms Abbott told Gaydar Radio that she would raise the issue in parliament.

On Sunday, gay singer Elton John, who has an HIV/AIDS charity, said he was due to meet prime minister David Cameron to discuss how infection rates could be tackled.

Speaking to last week, HIV charity bosses said they feared the funding changes would lead to more HIV infections.

Carl Burnell, the chief executive of GMFA, said: “On the day that we see HIV rates are rising on a local and national scale, this is not the time to be cutting HIV prevention work.

“Ultimately, it doesn’t even save money. It costs £300,000 to treat a person with HIV over their lifetime. This could prove more expensive for the state.”

Tim Franks, the chief executive of PACE, said: “I’m extremely concerned. Cutting prevention work doesn’t save money. Everybody understands that when you’re looking at an incurable illness which requires long-term treatment, it is much, much better to prevent it.”

Mark Creelman, joint director of strategy for the Inner North West London PCTs said: “We have offered six-month fixed term contracts to our HIV prevention providers. These contracts will ensure there is no gap in HIV prevention while a public health needs assessment and programme is redesigned and undertaken. All providers and service users will be part of the design programme, which we anticipate will be in place from October 1st.

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