HIV charities ‘deeply concerned’ over allocation of HIV prevention budget

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The National AIDS Trust (NAT) has expressed “deep concern” at the Department of Health’s new plans for investment in HIV prevention for the next year.

In a statement today the NAT commented on the new spending plans, which it notes includes the halving of HIV Prevention England (HPE)’s funding for HIV prevention to £1.2 million.

The HPE is a partnership of voluntary sector organisations led by the Terrence Higgins Trust.

Part of the announcement included the formation of a £500,000 Innovation Fund, which PinkNews revealed yesterday. The fund allows small, local organisations to bid for funding of between £50,000-100,000, granted by local authorities.

It also notes £150,000, which goes towards tackling late diagnoses, which will be matched by the Elton John AIDS Foundation, £300,000 for a national home sampling service, providing up to 50,000 home testing kits, and £250,000 to allow Public Health England to monitor and evaluate the schemes.

Deborah Gold, CEO at NAT said: “The Minister has identified 2015-16 as a transition year for the national HIV prevention programme with an aim to work towards a longer-term and more innovative strategy for HIV prevention.  NAT is calling for an open and transparent review as part of this process.

“The reduction in HPE funding represents a dramatic cut to funding of voluntary sector activity on HIV prevention.  The Innovation Fund may help to plug the gap but will not be issuing grants until well after the current programme comes to an end this month.  We are deeply concerned about the level of upheaval to HIV prevention provision across the country.  Important enabling infrastructure will be significantly compromised by the gap in funding.

“Continued investment in national HIV prevention is essential.  The approach to determining how funding is invested this year could present real risks to provision; we need to learn from this.  We urge the Government to ensure that in this transition year, an open, fair, timely and evidence-based programme is developed for the future.”

Public Health Minister Jane Ellison said: “We have protected the entire £2.45 million national HIV prevention budget, and have announced the first national home sampling service which will triple the number of sampling kits available .

“It is worrying that HIV rates continue to rise in men who have sex with men, which is why we have taken steps to be more bold, innovative and ambitious in tackling this.”