HIV poverty highlighted in Scottish report

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Children and the elderly are most at risk from HIV-related poverty, a report has revealed.

Poverty and HIV: findings from the Crusaid Hardship Fund in Scotland, which was released yesterday in the Scottish Parliament, highlights the effects that stigma and discrimination can have on the financial situation of people living with HIV.

The report, conducted by AIDS charity Crusaid, Waverley Care and HIV Scotland, calls for action in tackling the root causes of poverty among people living with HIV in Scotland, including addressing age-related poverty, increasing levels of hate crime, unemployment and poor housing among people living with HIV.

Policies granting asylum seekers the right to work after six months and better access to further education for their children are also being called for.

Since 1991, half of all people diagnosed with HIV in Scotland have turned to the Crusaid Hardship Fund for support.

In 2006/07, the average income of applicants to the Fund was less than £50 per week, while the number of applications for basic needs such as food and clothing had risen.

David Johnson, director of Waverley Care, told

“This report highlights how HIV can impact on almost every aspect of a person’s life when they are living with an HIV diagnosis.

“It shows how much poorer life can be, not just in terms of financial poverty, although this can be considerable, but also poorer in terms of social inclusion and life chances.

“The examples of where the Crusaid Hardship Fund in Scotland has been used to alleviate individuals’ circumstances illustrate just how pervasive poverty can be and how important the Fund is in alleviating the worst aspects of this.”

Steven Inman, Head of Grants and Projects at Crusaid, highlighted the need for support mechanisms to assist young people in coming to terms with their HIV diagnoses.

“Trying to come to terms with a chronic and still highly-stigmatised illness whilst dealing with the pressures of

“There is now an emerging group of older people living with HIV.

“This group is more likely to spend extended periods in poverty due to low incomes as ill health and discrimination exclude them from the job market.”

The report recommends that age-related poverty be addressed by the Government when forward planning, both in relation to children and young people and also for older people living longer with HIV, especially in light of projections of increasing instances of pensioner poverty.

One of a number of case studies cited in the report is that of “Peter”, who was diagnosed with HIV after a prolonged bout of flu and subsequent hospital tests.

He later discovered that his long-term partner, “Graeme”, had been living with the virus for three years but kept it a secret. The couple’s relationship then turned violent and soon broke down.

Peter approached the Crusaid Hardship Fund for help to move into new accommodation.

Over time, both men found it increasingly difficult to maintain their jobs, as ill-health took hold.

Graeme also applied to the Fund when he realised he would not be able to pay the heating bill on his own and the only alternative was to keep the gas switched off all winter.

Following awards from the Fund, both Peter and Graeme are now rebuilding their lives, independently from one another.

There are currently over 73,000 people living with HIV in the UK. In 1986 infections in the UK were confined almost exclusively to the gay community.

As of the end of June 2007, 45 per cent of diagnosed HIV infections resulted from sex between men.

41 per cent were from heterosexual sex, 5 per cent from injecting drug use, 2 per cent from mother-to-child transmission, 2 per cent from blood/tissue transfer or blood factor, and 5 per cent from other or undetermined routes.