Last week the Government announced its plans for the future of the national HIV Prevention programme HIV Prevention England. This programme was due to run until the end of March 2015 – it will now be extended for another year but faces a massive 50% cut in budget to just £1.2million. This comes at a time when Public Health England reported the highest ever number of new HIV diagnoses amongst gay & bisexual men, with new infections continuing to rise.
The cuts come against a backdrop of ongoing stigma and significant gaps in public understanding of HIV as highlighted in a new report launched on World AIDS Day by the National AIDS Trust. NAT also found that local authority spending on HIV Prevention was less than 0.1% of public health spending in high prevalence areas. The Pan-London HIV Prevention Programme has also reduced its scope in recent years.
The cuts are worrying, and whilst they are being contested there is currently no indication of what involvement – if any – local delivery partners in the programme such as London Friend may have from April. This places at risk our unique role in the programme delivering specific HIV prevention interventions to men at increased risk due to drug use and chemsex. Currently the programme funds our specialist work in GUM clinics to identify HIV and drug risks early and provide interventions such as information, advice, and one to one counselling to help reduce HIV transmission.
This week the Chief Executives of leading HIV charities THT and the National AIDS Trust slammed the decision as “simply staggering”. London Friend adds its support to calls for a rethink on this decision. Our Chief Executive Monty Moncrieff said “Many of our service users tell us they feel they became HIV positive due to sex they had whilst using drugs, which are widespread within our communities. Services such as our Antidote drug & alcohol project are in high demand because LGBT people feel old-style drug treatment services don’t understand chemsex and the drugs that are used for this, so it’s essential we incorporate joint HIV prevention and drug support into our work. This decision puts the innovative work we have done in sexual health clinics – where gay men say they want to access this support – at risk. This decision makes no sense at all.”
You can find out more about the campaign calling for the cuts to be halted and for a funding commitment over the coming year to be agreed here, and add your name to the petition.
You can support London Friend's work by texting LDNF15 £5 to 70070 or making a one-off or regular donation here.