Gay councillor questions Brighton’s HIV/AIDS cuts

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

Gay Green Party Councillor Simon Williams is leading calls for Brighton and Hove City Council to investigate the impact of recent budget cuts on people living with HIV and AIDS in the city.

NHS HIV/AIDS budgets in the city have been cut by a third in three years if inflation is included, the party claims.

Brighton and Hove City Council has the power to scrutinise the performance of local NHS services and Green Party councillors Simon Williams and Bill Randall have proposed that the council’s Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee (HOSC) examines the impact of the cuts and questions NHS and social care providers.

The city has the highest prevalence of HIV infection in the country, according to a recent International HIV conference in Toronto and has suffered because of a change to the funding formula set centrally by the Government for the Aids Support Grant.

The revised formula reflects a national increase in HIV/AIDS among women and children and a concentration of resources to meet their needs. However the city, which is home to a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community of an estimated 35,000 people, bucks the national trend and gay men continue to make up the bulk of existing and newly diagnosed infection.

Green adult social services and health spokesperson Cllr Simon Williams said, “It is timely to note at the time when we commemorate World AIDS Day that a predominance of HIV infection among gay men is still very much with us in this city, whatever is happening elsewhere.

“We therefore have to question why the Government has not done more to help the city’s HIV positive gay community overcome such a rigid national funding formula, while at the same time still ensure that the needs of other groups such women and children are also met.”

“Put simply: we’re losing out because we do not fit the national trends for infection rates. We hope the council’s scrutiny committee will agree to investigate how this affects people who are HIV positive in the city and examine what could be done to lobby the Government to do more.”

Cllr Bill Randall, the Green spokesperson on HOSC, said, “We’re also concerned at the impact of the cuts on voluntary services who depend on the NHS for grants. It’s only through the sterling efforts of the public and voluntary sector workers involved that keep the local programme going.

“Like the Terrence Higgins Trust and others, we’re deeply concerned at Government plans to scrap the funding altogether in two years time. We hope that the Health Overview Committee will be able to assess the problem and make recommendations on what should be done.”

The councillors have tabled their proposal for the 29 November meeting of the council’s Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee. They have also tabled a motion to a full meeting of the city council to be debated on 7 December urging the Government and NHS to address the problem.