Stop cuts to HIV services in UK’s highest HIV prevalence areas
Vital support services for people like me, who are living with HIV in South London, are at risk of being cut - these services are an essential lifeline to people living with the long term condition.
Without Terrence Higgins Trust’s HIV support services in Lambeth, I genuinely don’t think I’d be alive today – they helped me when I was lonely, suicidal and sleeping rough.
The services support people living with HIV in Lambeth, Southwark and Lewisham, and are currently funded by Lambeth Council and the local NHS in Lewisham and Southwark.
Now we need your help to continue supporting people living with HIV to help them live well, when poverty and stigma still affects so many.
What’s being cut?
The cuts will affect people like me who are living with HIV in Lambeth, Southwark and Lewisham, where HIV rates are soaring far above the national average.
Terrence Higgins Trust offers specialist advice and counselling services for people living with HIV in these areas and the charity METRO provides the First Point service which helps people newly diagnosed with HIV. Now the council and the NHS are proposing to withdraw the funding for these three services.
That means these life-changing services could disappear by 1st October.
I’ve been living with HIV since I was 18, but it was in 2007, when I became homeless, that I first used my local HIV support services.
I was in a bad way and was unsure about what support was available for me as the council told me I wasn’t entitled to benefits. I left suitcases at friends’ houses and told them I was redecorating my flat as I was too embarrassed to tell them the truth or to ask for help. Before then I’d had a career in hotels which took me around the world. But then I found myself sleeping rough and in hostels which was hard as my HIV medicines at the time needed to be refrigerated and there was no fridge in the shelter.
Terrence Higgins Trust were the ones that helped me, through their advice and advocacy service. They told me that I was eligible for benefits, and gave me the legal and practical advice I needed to get back on my feet.
I also got counselling through them, and it was so important because I was so isolated and lonely at the time - my counsellor showed me kindness and understanding that I’d not had since I was diagnosed with HIV. I can’t describe what that did for me.
Why we need your support
I know I am far from being alone in my experiences. One in six people with HIV are living in poverty, and people with HIV still have to deal with feelings of shame and low self-esteem in relation to their HIV.
If HIV support services are cut, where will people go? General services cannot meet the needs of all the people living with HIV in these areas, and do not understand what it is to emotionally and physically live with HIV.
If we lose the HIV support services in Lambeth, Southwark and Lewisham, three of the worst-hit areas for HIV in the whole country, what kind of message does that send out? There is already far too much stigma and apathy towards HIV and this will make it worse.
I can’t understand it - if anything there needs to be more funding for these vital services, not less.
I’m now enjoying life in Brixton and have had so much public support after talking about my HIV on ‘First Dates’. It would mean the world to me for people to show the same solidarity now by signing this petition. A final decision on the cuts is expected in June, so we only have weeks to save these services.
Please help stop cuts to HIV services by signing my petition calling on South London to fund these vital services.
- Council Leader, Lambeth Council
Cllr Lib Peck
- Chair, Southwark CCG
Dr Jonty Heaversedge
- Chair, Lewisham CCG
Dr Marc Rowland
I am writing as I have just signed the petition to stop cuts to HIV support services in Lambeth, Southwark and Lewisham. I believe that these services are vital for local people living with HIV and must be saved.
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