Government urged to spend more on HIV prevention

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A report by leading HIV charity the National AIDS Trust (NAT), has said not enough money is being spent on HIV prevention to have any impact on new infections.

The NAT estimates that in 2014/15, £15 million was spent across the UK on HIV prevention, compared to £55 million which was allocated in the years 2001/02.

The report states that the number of people living with HIV has trebled, while the budget for HIV prevention has decreased to less than a third of the original amount.

According to the NAT, only 70p per person was spent in areas with a high prevalence of HIV, with £10 million being spent by local authorities.

The report also found that 0.1 percent of local authority public health allocation was spent on HIV prevention, and that in 2013, 55 times more money was spent on HIV treatment compared to local authority spending on prevention.

It notes that the lifetime cost of treatment and care for someone living with HIV is £361,000.

Deborah Gold, chief executive of the NAT, said: “Our research found, shockingly, in the 58 areas of highest prevalence of HIV in England, seven local authorities weren’t spending anything on primary HIV prevention or on additional testing services[i]. Worryingly we also found no correlation between level of HIV prevalence in an area and how much was being spent on prevention. There are massive inconstancies between regions and areas, creating a postcode lottery of HIV provision.”

“Testing for HIV is an important prevention intervention as we know that up to 80% of people get HIV from someone who doesn’t know they have it. Worryingly 35 out of 58 local authorities were not investing anything in HIV testing outside sexual health clinics in 2014-15. This is despite NICE guidelines clearly stating they should be offering tests in GPs surgeries, hospitals and community settings in order to have any hope of reducing the number of people with undiagnosed HIV, and further transmissions, in their areas.”

The charity also voiced concerns that once ringfencing of public health budget is removed in April 2016, and local authorities are able to spend money as they choose, basic services such as sexual health clinics may suffer.

Gold continues: ”In the current climate of cuts and pressure on budgets we are extremely worried this money will be used to shore up other areas of council spend. This would be a disaster for public health in this country.”

The National AIDS Trust calls on local and national government to address this funding gap, maintain the public health ring-fencing and prioritise HIV prevention and testing services.

The Government in December refuted claims that it was to halve its HIV prevention budget for 2015, reiterating support for the strategy and saying “It will continue”.

Charities spoke out against apparent plans to slash funding for HIV Prevention England – which focusses on reducing HIV transmission in gay and bisexual men and ethnic minorities – from £2.45m to just £1.2m from April 2015.

A petition allowed users to lobby the Government to reconsider the cut – and to maintain the current level of funding to prevent HIV for the next three years. 

In a letter from Health Minister Jane Ellison to Tory MPs Mike Freer and Simon Kirby, sent to PinkNews, she refuted claims that the fund would be slashed, and guaranteed that the money “will continue”.