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Extreme poverty among people with HIV in the UK increasing

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

A new report on Poverty and HIV by NAT (National AIDS Trust) and Terrence Higgins Trust (THT) reveals at least one in six people diagnosed with HIV in the UK experienced severe poverty between 2006 and 2009.  Furthermore, the level of poverty experienced by people living with HIV has dramatically increased over recent years.   In the current climate – and without determined Government action – the poverty crisis for people living with HIV is set to get worse.

New figures reveal recipients of grants from the Crusaid Hardship Fund, now run by THT, had an average weekly income of just £42 per week – less than half of the income they had 10 years ago (£93).  In addition, many have no income at all.  Most applicants are now living in extreme poverty with income at only 20 per cent of the average income for a single person1.

Nick Partridge, Chief Executive of THT comments:

'The level of poverty people with HIV are experiencing across the UK has dramatically increased over recent years. Where the Hardship Fund used to buy people a fridge or pay for respite care, now it mainly goes on basic survival – food, clothes, a bed.'

The report analyses the underlying reasons why people with HIV face poverty.  Over a quarter (29 per cent) of applications to the Hardship Fund cited the immigration system as the primary reason for poverty.  In October 2009, the Government support for single asylum seekers was reduced from £64.30 to £35.13 a week - just £5 a day. A further 17 per cent of applications said that problems relating to the benefits system were their main cause of hardship.  Problems included awaiting a benefit decision, changes to the benefit system or delays in receiving benefits they were entitled to. 

Deborah Jack, Chief Executive of NAT (National AIDS Trust), comments:

'Charities are picking up the pieces of a poverty crisis in the UK, but there is only so much the sector’s limited funds can do.  The Government needs to address the underlying causes of this hardship, some of which it has been responsible for creating.  Granting asylum seekers the right to work after six months and ensuring people are not left in poverty while waiting for their benefits to be processed are two crucial steps that would release many people with HIV out of the poverty trap.'
 
The report identifies twenty recommendations that would address the root causes of poverty amongst people living with HIV. 

Case Study

James, 35 years old and HIV positive, is currently living between friend’s houses sleeping on their floors and occasionally in shop door ways.  He came to the UK as an asylum seeker and has been granted leave to remain here.  No longer eligible for housing under asylum support, he applied for benefits but has not received any payments.  An investigation revealed that due to backlogs in the system, by the time James’ claim was processed he was homeless and therefore did not qualify for the benefit.   James is one of 7,900 people with HIV in the UK who have relied on a grant from the Crusaid Hardship Fund in the last three years, to pay for basic needs.

- Ends -

Notes to the editor:

1 - A common measure of low income in the UK is 60% of the median weekly income of the general population.  At present, the low income threshold is £115 a week for a single person without dependents after housing costs. 

Poverty and HIV is available to download here.

For further information please contact:
Charli Scouller
Communications Manager 
NAT
020 7814 6733 
press@nat.org.uk 

HIV and Poverty in the UK
Approximately 90,000 people are living with HIV in the UK.  The relationship between poverty and HIV is cyclical.  People in poverty are more likely to become infected, and poor health as a result of HIV can create poverty.  Social impacts of the virus can also impact on poverty, and there is still significant stigma attached to the virus.

THT and the Hardship Fund
Terrence Higgins Trust is the UK’s largest HIV and sexual health charity with centres across England, Scotland and Wales. We're here to provide information and advice about HIV and sexual health and offer a range of services including sexual health checks, counselling and support groups.  We campaign for a world where people with HIV live healthy lives, free from prejudice and discrimination and we promote good sexual health as a right and reality for all. Terrence Higgins Trust relies on donations to deliver a wide range of services. To make a donation, visit www.tht.org.uk.

People living with HIV can contact THT Direct on 0845 12 21 200, for advice on applying to the Hardship Fund, and alternative forms of assistance.

NAT 
NAT (National AIDS Trust) is the UK’s leading charity dedicated to transforming society’s response to HIV. We provide fresh thinking, expert advice and practical resources. We campaign for change.
Shaping attitudes. Challenging injustice. Changing lives.
www.nat.org.uk