Exposed: Huge national cuts to HIV support services
New Freedom of Information requests have exposed an alarming trend for cutting or completely decommissioning HIV support services across England and Wales. In England there was an average cut of 28% in expenditure for HIV support services between 2015/16 and 2016/17. The regional variation in cuts is enormous, with some areas entirely losing support for people living with HIV.
Two companion reports launched today by NAT (National AIDS Trust) show that:
- 35% of people living with HIV had accessed support services in the past 12 months.
- Services for people living with HIV provide support in dealing with issues more likely to affect them than the general population including: poverty, co-morbidities, mental and emotional health problems, and employment and housing problems. For many people living with HIV, these services are a rare safe space where they can discuss HIV and its impact.
- In spite of a clear need for these services, disinvestment in HIV support services is a proven trend in England and, to a lesser extent, Wales where expenditure exclusively on HIV support services was cut from £153,352 in 2015/16 to £0 in 2016/17.
- Over a quarter of local authorities in England cut contract values by at least 50%.
- In Scotland and Northern Ireland services remained steady over the years considered.
NAT have been told about a number of proposed and confirmed in-year cuts since the data was captured, meaning the reduced expenditure reported here is an under-estimation of the current severity of cuts.
Deborah Gold, chief executive of NAT said: "The disappearance of support for people living with HIV in England and Wales is extremely alarming. This trend leaves people living with HIV without the support they need to live well. This is dangerous and short-sighted, creating a need for more urgent and more expensive care for people living with HIV further down the line.
"With this evidence of widespread decommissioning of crucial and, at times, life-saving services, which ensure people living with HIV can manage their long-term condition, we are calling on NHS Clinical Commissioning Groups to accept their role in ensuring needs are met. Support services alleviate the pressure on clinical services, meaning their provision is a responsibility CCGs are currently not fulfilling."
Case studies may be available. For interviews, further comment, or advanced copies of the reports please email our Senior Communications Officer Charlie Alderwick on firstname.lastname@example.org or call 020 7814 6727
Notes to editors:
WHAT ARE HIV SUPPORT SERVICES?
Open-access support services have been a key part of the national response to HIV since the beginning of the epidemic in the 1980s. They can include information, advice and advocacy; peer support; and psychosocial support, for example. These services are usually, though not exclusively, delivered by the voluntary sector, and provide a model of long-term condition management.
HIV support services equip people living with HIV to live well and deal with issues which disproportionately affect this population, including stigma, poverty, and poor mental health, social isolation.
Specific groups living with HIV, for instance older people, newly-diagnosed people, women, black African people, migrants and younger people can especially benefit from specialised services.
The reports launched today by NAT are Why we need HIV support services and HIV support services – the state of the nations. They will be available to download from www.nat.org.uk/publications from 12.00 on Tuesday March 21st.
NAT (National AIDS Trust) is the UK’s leading charity dedicated to transforming society’s response to HIV. We provide fresh thinking, expertise and practical resources. We champion the rights of people living with HIV and campaign for change.
Shaping attitudes. Challenging injustice. Changing lives.