HIV groups say sexual health services are failing

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A report published today suggests that local sexual health services are still in a bad state despite additional funding.

The British Association of Sexual Health and HIV (BASHH), the British HIV Association (BHIVA), Providers of AIDS Care and Treatment (PACT) and Terrence Higgins Trust (THT)

paints an unhealthy picture of the state of local sexual health say funds are not getting through to local services and sexual health isn’t being seen as priority.

Disturbing Symptoms is the fourth annual survey of how Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) managed sexual health and HIV in 2005, and how specialist clinicians viewed their progress. Findings include an 89% increase in patients with only 3%of staff being added.

Out of the 66 PCTs and 88 clinicians surveyed from all English regions, 73% felt sexual health was not sufficiently prioritised despite government targets.

Lisa Power, Head of Policy at Terrence Higgins Trust said “The Government has provided a very clear steer that sexual health services must be prioritised, together with the 48 hour access target, and additional funding to help modernise services.

“It’s now in the hands of PCTs to make this a local priority, and ensure the additional funding is spent making those improvements. This is our best chance to reverse the shocking trend of declining sexual health in England. Failure to take it will leave current service problems untreated and festering, with dreadful consequences for the sexual health of the nation.”

However, A Department of Health spokesperson quashed the findings, he told “This is a tiny survey based on responses from only 22% of Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) across the country. Our latest figures show that 48% of people are receiving a GUM appointment within 48 hours a target that we have until 2008 to meet and that is written into Local Delivery Plans for all PCTs.”

“Most importantly, the majority of the £300m we have allocated to Sexual Health is due to kick-in from April of this year and we expect to make a huge difference in the drive towards meeting the clear targets we have set.”

“We’ve always made it clear that PCTs, who are closest to their patients, are best placed to make local decisions based on local needs.”

According to figures the United Kingdom has seen the largest increase in HIV cases in any country in Western Europe in the last four years. The THT reports that gay men account for 48% of all HIV cases and 59% of all AIDS cases in the UK.