It was revealed today that the Government is considering to dramatically reduce its funding for HIV prevention schemes by up to 50%.

The government has come under fire this evening after HIV charities revealed that it was planning to cut HIV prevention schemes, which it has funded since 1996, by 50%, from April 2015, despite a rise in new infections amongst gay and bisexual men. The announcement has been called by campaigners and HIV charities alike as ‘devastating’.

Both the National AIDS Trust and the Terrance Higgins Trust have decried the move, calling it ‘staggering’ and HIV prevention is at a ‘serious risk of going backwards’.

Funding will be halved for the year commencing April 2015 and there is as yet no commitment to fund further years of the programme.

Deborah Gold, Chief Executive of NAT, says:
“This decision is simply staggering. HIV transmission shows no signs of decline, with the highest number of diagnoses among gay and bisexual men ever last year. Public knowledge of HIV is far too low, and myths about HIV are on the increase. We are at serious risk of going backwards on HIV if national-level investment is not made in HIV prevention. We urge the Government to think again.”

The current programme, HIV Prevention England (HPE), is coordinated by Terrence Higgins Trust and is focused on the needs of gay  and bisexual men and black African men and women.

The £1.2million allocated for 2015/16 is equivalent to less than £1 for each person targeted by the programme.

Dr Rosemary Gillespie, Chief Executive at Terrence Higgins Trust, said: “This is not the right time for the Government to pare back spending on HIV prevention. In recent years, we have made good progress in driving down rates of undiagnosed and late-diagnosed HIV. However, tens of thousands of people with HIV across England are still undiagnosed and at increased risk of passing the virus on unwittingly. We have not yet reached the tipping point in our fight against the epidemic, and halving government spending on HIV prevention now would be a regressive step that risks undermining the headway we have made.”

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This decision is in direct contradiction to Simon Stevens’ NHS Five Year Forward View, released in October and welcomed by all main political parties, in which he said:

“…the future health of millions of children, the sustainability of the NHS, and the economic prosperity of Britain all now depend on a radical upgrade in prevention and public health. Twelve years ago Derek Wanless’ health review warned that unless the country took prevention seriously we would be faced with a sharply rising burden of avoidable illness. That warning has not been heeded – and the NHS is on the hook for the consequences”.

NAT’s activist network are working to defend the national HIV prevention funding. Please encourage your readers to get involved and join the campaign here: http://act.lifewithhiv.org.uk/lobby/HPE

A spokesman for the DoH said that negotiations for an extension on their 3-year contract with Terrence Higgins Trust for HIV Preventions, which ends in 2015, were on-going.