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Healthcare professionals place high value on social care for people living with HIV... and express concern for the future

Monday, July 25, 2011

NAT has launched a report, ‘The impact of social care support for people living with HIV: the results of NAT’s snapshot survey of healthcare professionals’, which strongly illustrates the continued need for social care support for people with HIV; the positive impact it can have on their lives and the value placed on it by clinicians. The report also details the real concern expressed at increasing difficulty in accessing social care and the loss of trained social workers.

The report is based on a survey of healthcare professionals – including members of the British HIV Association (BHIVA), the Children’s HIV Association (CHIVA), the National HIV Nurses Association (NHIVNA) and the Society of Sexual Health Advisers – and looks at how often they refer their patients for social care support, how many of them are currently receiving support and the main reasons for referral. 
The majority of respondents (64%) thought up to half of their patients received local authority funded social care, and a third (33%) referred patients approximately once a week and almost a third (30%) referred patients once a month.   When asked the main reasons for referring patients with HIV for social care support, poverty related issues were overwhelmingly the most cited reasons. For example, housing issues (64%), benefits advice (35%), and financial problems (31%).
Almost half of respondents (46%) said their patients had trouble accessing social care support. Specific barriers within the system included lack of funding or staff capacity in local services, the threshold for local authority support being set too high for people living with HIV to qualify, and the process being too slow overall. 
However, for those patients who were able to access to social care support, 77% of respondents agreed this support helps them. The most cited benefits were physical/personal care (74%), helping patients cope with diagnosis (72%) and providing psychological support (67%).
Deborah Jack, Chief Executive of NAT (National AIDS Trust), comments:

‘A high proportion of people living with HIV have social care needs, often related to poverty and its associated issues. The link between HIV and poverty is unfortunately long-established, with people in poverty more likely to become infected and poor health as a result of HIV causing poverty. The social impact of HIV also increases the need for social care support; helping people to cope with diagnosis, adhere to treatment, and handle issues such as disclosure and safer sex.
‘It’s clear from this report that HIV clinical staff place a high value on the impact social care support has on how a person manages their HIV day-to-day. The Government has also shown its commitment to the importance of social care support for people living with HIV by retaining a distinct budget line within the local authority Formula Grant. However, it’s up to the local authorities to ensure these funds are being spent as intended. Without this vital support system being provided on a local level, people living with HIV are at greater risk of not adhering to treatment and of passing HIV on – both of which ultimately mean higher costs to public services.’

- Ends -

Notes to the editor:

The full report ‘The impact of social care support for people living with HIV: the results of NAT’s snapshot survey of healthcare professionals’ can be downloaded here.

* Social care refers to services which provide support for people in their daily lives so as to enable them to live independently and play a full part in society. In terms of HIV specific social care, this may refer to services such as counselling, peer support, personal care, respite care, residential care and support for cares. It also covers other services provided by local authorities to people living with HIV.
For further information please contact:
Charli Scouller
Communications Manager
020 7814 6733
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.
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