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Due to an astonishing display of people power, the National AIDS Trust’s campaign to protect the funding for HIV Prevention England (supported by publications like Vada and by people like you) has been successful. Thousands of people across the country tweeted, shared articles and links on Facebook, and petitioned MPs to protect the funding that goes to HIV Prevention England (HPE).
It was expected that, in April 2015, the Coalition Government would slash the funding for HPE from £2.45 million to less than half (£1.2 million). This was despite David Cameron’s comments earlier this month that ‘the red ribbon is about more than showing solidarity with those living with HIV in the UK and abroad; it should also be a spur to increase testing and a symbol of our commitment to carrying on work to reduce infection levels whilst tackling the stigma, discrimination and prejudice often associated with HIV and sexual health’.
The cuts would have disproportionately affected minority groups (gay and bisexual men, and the UK’s black community). The Terrence Higgins Trust’s CEO Dr Rosemary Gillespie said, ‘This is not the right time for the Government to pare back spending on HIV prevention … tens of thousands of people with HIV across England are still undiagnosed and at increased risk of passing the virus on unwittingly … halving government spending on HIV prevention now would be a regressive step that risks undermining the headway we have made.’
But the Government appears to have listened to the public outcry. The NAT posted an update on their website today that says,
‘The Public Health Minister, Jane Ellison, has confirmed in writing that the Government will protect funding for the National HIV prevention programme in England.
‘This could never have happened without the incredible support of you and nearly 1,500 others who emailed Jane Ellison so quickly – thank you!
‘We’re delighted that current investment will be maintained – but there is still much more to do.’
Meanwhile, Jane Ellison has confirmed that the U-turn on the funding cut will not, however, come without strings attached:
‘…while the HIV prevention budget will be maintained, we do want to be more ambitious in our plans to prevent HIV and to explore new and more innovative ways of doing things … Improving the way we deliver the HIV prevention programme will be part of our longer-term strategy for sexual and reproductive health which we plan to announce in the New Year.’
The NAT has stated that any reorganisation or changes to the existing HPE programme should be based on ‘evaluation of HIV Prevention England’, ‘evidence of what works and what doesn’t’ and ‘proper public consultation’. The NAT has also said any changes that are implemented should come after a ‘transparent process’ and only with a ‘commitment to a multi-year funding programme’.