Specialist services for those living with HIV in South London are at risk of being cut, in a move which could leave up to 900 people without support.
HIV and sexual health charity, the Terrence Higgins Trust, currently provides specialist advice and counselling services for people across Lambeth, Southwark and Lewisham. But under new proposals, which are under public consultation, these services could disappear by 1 October.
'We’re deeply concerned about the potential impact of cuts to HIV services in these boroughs,” said Ian Green, chief executive of the Terrence Higgins Trust.
'These services are a lifeline for hundreds of people living with HIV in South London, many of whom are facing immense financial and emotional hardship, and it is unclear where they will turn to after 1 October, when these services could vanish.'
The charity has raised concerns that these cuts could reflect a national trend of cuts to HIV services across the country. 'We fear the cuts in these boroughs could set a dangerous precedent on a national level, potentially leaving thousands of people with HIV without the emotional and practical support they need,' said Mr Green.
First Point, a service offering support to 600 people a year who have been newly diagnosed with HIV, provided by charity METRO, is also facing cuts in all three boroughs. The only HIV support services that will remain in Lambeth, Southwark and Lewisham under the new proposals will be METRO’s peer support and family support services.
An online petition has been started to save the services and Mr Green said that they are meeting with officials in Lambeth to find a solution.
A final decision on the proposed HIV cuts in Lambeth, Lewisham and Southwark is expected to be made in June.
Lambeth has the highest prevalence of HIV of any borough in the UK – there are eight times as many people living with HIV there, compared to the UK average.
Southwark is the second most-hit area for HIV in the country, with 6.5 times as many people with HIV compared to average, and Lewisham is in the top 10.