The government announced that the budget for HIV prevention across the UK will be halved in new cuts. From April 2015 to April 2016, only £1.2 million per year will be directed towards the current programme and no commitment has been made to retain even this lower level of funding.
This has been met with criticism given the ongoing spread of HIV in the UK, with 6,000 new diagnoses last year. This includes the highest ever number of new diagnoses amongst men who have sex with other men, which some have blamed on heteronormative sex education in schools. Public Health England predict that one in four people living with the disease are yet to be diagnosed.
On World AIDS Day, David Cameron said, “I am absolutely clear that there can be no complacency in our fight against HIV and AIDS.” He and his government, however, have ignored the advice of experts this week. Recent reports into healthcare in the UK have had an emphasis on prevention, with Simon Stevens’ NHS Five Year Forward Review going so far as to claim that “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.” The treatment of a single person diagnosed with HIV in the UK is estimated to cost the NHS £360,777.
Whilst HIV affects people of every demographic in the UK, it is most common in certain minority groups. Yusef Azad of the National AIDS trust has said with regards to the cuts, “Were British-born heterosexuals seeing the same percentages getting HIV as gay men and Africans there would be immense efforts by government to address the problem. When gay men and Africans experience such a public health crisis the response is to reduce further already inadequate funding.”
Speaking to the spokesperson of the Cambridge University Labour Club, Get Real. was told, “this is a deeply short sighted move by the Government. These cuts will leave many more young people at risk and could reverse much of the important progress which has been made on HIV prevention in recent years.”
Gabriella Jeakins studies Classics at the University of Cambridge and is the Senior News Editor at “Get Real.”