Southwark residents are being urged to have their say on proposed funding cuts and changes to vital HIV support services in the borough.
Under current arrangements, the respected Terrence Higgins Trust offers specialist advice and counselling services for people living with HIV in Southwark and charity METRO provides help for newly diagnosed residents. Lambeth Council, which leads on commissioning the services for Southwark, and the NHS have recently published proposals to withdraw the funding for these three services.
After being alerted to the planned funding cuts, local Liberal Democrat councillor David Noakes contacted Southwark’s Sexual Health Service Commissioner and the Chair of Southwark NHS services to raise concerns. Southwark is a borough with the second-highest rates of HIV in the UK – well above the national average – and the number of people living with HIV in Southwark continues to rise.
Service users also launched a petition to fight the funding cuts on Change.org and Councillor Noakes spoke to the petition organiser and to the Terence Higgins Trust about service users’ fears. These include:
the continued stigma attached to people living with HIV
failure to accept HIV as another long-term condition requiring specialist support services
lack of skills and capacity among existing mainstream advice providers
As a result of the lobbying by different groups, Southwark CCG has agreed to review the proposed changes and has extended the consultation to ensure there will not be a negative impact on people with HIV in Southwark. The new deadline for responses is 29 June.
Southwark Liberal Democrat Group Deputy Leader and Health Spokesperson, Councillor David Noakes, said:
“Lambeth and Southwark have the highest HIV figures per 1,000 population in the UK and new rates of HIV are continuing to rise among men who have sex with men.
“For these reasons, as well as the regrettable stigma that is still associated with HIV it is extremely important that any changes to HIV support and care services are widely consulted on and considered before any cuts or changes are made to these vital services.
“I am pleased that the consultation has been re-opened and would strongly encourage service users and others concerned about these changes to make representations. I will be making my own views known in my capacity as Opposition Spokesperson for Health.”