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From April 2015, the Coalition Government will slash its funding for the HIV Prevention England (HPE) programme
Despite authoring a letter of support for HIV charities and campaigners for World AIDS Day, in which he wrote of the contribution grassroots organisations and the third sector make in the fight against charity, David Cameron’s cabinet is set to reduce cash support.
Earlier this month, David Cameron wrote:
‘From bringing it to public attention initially, fighting passionately for respect and treatment, through to current campaigns aimed at increasing testing. These are people are to be applauded for their commitment, innovation and passion.’
He added: ‘This World AIDS Day 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.’
Cameron also listed the important role of the UK in supporting those affected by HIV/AIDS overseas:
‘The UK has a proud track record of leading the fight internationally; last year we supported 1.9 million people with treatment for AIDS and 32,000 children benefited from child-friendly HIV/AIDS medicines.
‘I am proud that as a nation we are keeping our commitments to the poorest in the world.’
The Conservative-Liberal Democrat Coalition Government’s latest cuts will particularly impact upon minorities – affecting both men who have sex with men and the black community disproportionately.
In a statement from Terrence Higgins Trust, their CEO Dr Rosemary Gillespie said: ‘This is not the right time for the Government to pare back spending on HIV prevention.
‘In recent years, we have made good progress in driving down rates of undiagnosed and late-diagnosed HIV. However, tens of thousands of people with HIV across England are still undiagnosed and at increased risk of passing the virus on unwittingly.
‘We have not yet reached the tipping point in our fight against the epidemic, and halving government spending on HIV prevention now would be a regressive step that risks undermining the headway we have made.’
An innovative new preventative treatment for HIV – known as PrEP or pre-exposure prophylaxis – is expected to be rolled out across high-risk groups in the UK. This, and existing HIV treatments, are costly, however, and are funded by the NHS.
Deborah Gold of the National AIDS Trust said: ‘This decision is simply staggering. HIV transmission shows no signs of decline, with the highest number of diagnoses among gay and bisexual men ever last year.
‘Public knowledge of HIV is far too low, and myths about HIV are on the increase. We are at serious risk of going backwards on HIV if national-level investment is not made in HIV prevention. We urge the Government to think again.’
The NAT has published a report on education and awareness around HIV in the UK, which suggests there are still areas where a lack of understanding leads to stigma and discrimination. The results of NAT’s recent poll, commissioned from Ipsos MORI, show that only 65% of adults can correctly identify the three main routes for HIV transmission. Additionally, an increasing number of UK adults still incorrectly think transmission is possible through kissing and sneezing. NAT is calling on members of the public to write to their local MPs to secure current levels of HIV funding.