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Campaign to oppose serious funding cuts to HIV services

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Stigma has stopped some people accessing GPs The stigma of HIV has stopped some people accessing GP services

HIV charities and healthcare organisations have launched a new campaign opposing cuts to HIV services across the country.

The campaigners have written to health secretary Jeremy Hunt calling for a meeting to discuss the increasing numbers of local authorities pulling funding from local HIV services. They are calling for more effective commissioning, adequate funding and access to support services for all people living with HIV.

Dr Greg Ussher, METRO charity CEO, said: 'Proposed cuts of up to 100% to HIV support services will decimate vital provision for people that cannot speak out against their local authority's plans for fear of the stigma publicly disclosing their HIV status might bring.'

Oxfordshire County Council has cut the Terrence Higgins Trust's £50,000 funding resulting in the closure of its local centre. There will be no HIV prevention and support services in the whole county after April 2016, with almost 500 people left with no alternative support service.

The HIV support service in Portsmouth, provided by Positive Action, has been cut by approximately £26,000. The Hampshire arm of the charity has been granted an interim support payment of £30,000, less than half of the amount previously received.

In Bexley and Bromley equality and diversity charity, METRO, is facing cuts to HIV support services of over £80,000.

Alex Sparrowhawk, membership and involvement officer at the Terrence Higgins Trust, said: 'As a person living with HIV, I can prove to Jeremy Hunt that HIV support services are vital to dealing with your diagnosis and managing this health condition. The national campaign is about sounding the alarm to policy makers, councils and the public - these essential services are under serious threat and we need your help.'

The campaign is also calling on the public to write to their local council leader to ask what the council is doing to support local people with HIV.

Public Health England's national HIV figures show that in 2014 alone over 6000 people were diagnosed with HIV. The People Living with HIV Stigma Index UK found that stigma is still closely associated with HIV and had prevented 15% of people surveyed from accesing their GP in the last year.

The Treasury announced it was cutting public health budgets last year by £200 million. As well as HIV services, it has been reported that other public health services have felt the pressure of the budget cuts such as smoking cessation services, obesity clinics and 0-5 services.

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