National AIDS Trust highlights slashed services

A series of Freedom of Information requests have exposed a widespread trend of cutting or completely decommissioning HIV support services across England and Wales. In England there was an average cut of 28% in expenditure for HIV support services between 2015/16 and 2016/17. The regional variation in cuts is enormous, with some areas entirely losing support for people living with HIV.

Two companion reports launched today by NAT (National AIDS Trust) show that:

  • 35% of people living with HIV had accessed support services in the past 12 months.
  • Services for people living with HIV provide support in dealing with issues more likely to affect them than the general population including: poverty, co-morbidities, mental and emotional health problems, and employment and housing problems. For many people living with HIV, these services are a rare safe space where they can discuss HIV and its impact.
  • In spite of a clear need for these services, disinvestment in HIV support services is a proven trend in England and, to a lesser extent, Wales where expenditure exclusively on HIV support services was cut from £153,352 in 2015/16 to £0 in 2016/17.
  • Over a quarter of local authorities in England cut contract values by at least 50%.
  • In Scotland and Northern Ireland services remained steady over the years considered.

NAT have been told about a number of proposed and confirmed in-year cuts since the data was collated, meaning the reduced expenditure reported here is an under-estimation of the current severity of cuts.

Deborah Gold, chief executive of NAT said: “The disappearance of support for people living with HIV in England and Wales is extremely alarming. This trend leaves people living with HIV without the support they need to live well. This is dangerous and short-sighted, creating a need for more urgent and more expensive care for people living with HIV further down the line.

“With this evidence of widespread decommissioning of crucial and, at times, life-saving services, which ensure people living with HIV can manage their long-term condition, we are calling on NHS Clinical Commissioning Groups to accept their role in ensuring needs are met. Support services alleviate the pressure on clinical services, meaning their provision is a responsibility CCGs are currently not fulfilling.”