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Part 2: National HIV Prevention: Where's the £1.2m?

Yusef Azad
18th January 2016

In my last blog I welcomed PHE’s new tender for a national HIV prevention programme. The annual value of the programme is £1.2 million, the same as the value for HIV Prevention England in 2015/16. In the current context of significant cuts to the public health budget announced by the Chancellor in his Spending Review, to maintain the programme’s value is an achievement, and absolutely necessary given experts agree that HIV incidence is increasing.

But before we open the champagne we need to remember that the national programme is not the sum total of all national HIV prevention activity.  Cast your mind back to this time last year.  The Minister for Public Health had intended to cut the national prevention programme by half, from the £2.4 million in 2014/15, to £1.2 million in 2015/16 – losing £1.2 million from HIV prevention work.  Thanks to a campaign, led by NAT, with which many of this blog’s readers no doubt got involved, we persuaded the Minister to think again.  The £1.2 million was restored – not to the national programme itself, but to other national HIV prevention work.  In 2015/16 this further £1.2 million has been spent as follows:

£500,000 – Innovation Fund

£250,000 – monitoring and evaluation

£150,000 – late diagnosis project, match funded by further monies from EJAF

£300,000 – national HIV home sampling service.

What are the plans for 2016/17 and beyond?  We need a statement as soon as possible from Public Health England stating their intentions in relation to national HIV prevention spending outside the national programme.  And we need to ensure that such extra spending amounts at least to £1.2 million.  At least.  There is so much to do if we are to start reducing the rate of HIV transmission in our society. 

For example, since the start of 2016 the national HIV home sampling service isn’t even national – you can only order a kit online if you live within the boundaries of one of the 89 or so local authorities who have signed up to partner with PHE on the project.  How about making home sampling genuinely national, ending the postcode lottery, and PHE taking up responsibility for the whole programme, surely something which sits squarely within the remit of a national body? 

Or how about extending the Innovation Fund, which seems to have gone down well as an initiative?  Not only repeat it next year but also provide additional funds for two or three of those innovations from the first year which have been especially successful and now need further funding to become established, develop an evidence base and prepare themselves to secure other sources of funding in the near future.

Or simply providing additional funds within PHE to allow the capacity to manage and plan these interventions effectively, keeping the sector informed of developments in projects?

Given that the national prevention programme monies have been committed for at least three years, it would be good also for PHE to commit to extra national HIV prevention funding not just for 2016/17 but also for future years.

It’s only three months before the beginning of the next financial year.  NAT is calling on the Minister for Public Health and PHE to make their intentions clear as soon as possible.  We know there are many people out there who will join us in challenging any proposal to reduce from £1.2 million the planned additional expenditure on national HIV prevention in 2016/17.  We wait expectantly…

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