With almost 3,500 people accessing HIV care, a rate of 15 HIV diagnoses per 1,000 of the population and the highest prevalence of the virus in the UK you would hazard a guess that Lambeth would be safe from the cuts to HIV support services sweeping across the country. You’d be guessing wrong.
As early as next month a decision will be made in Lambeth, Southwark and Lewisham on whether or not to cut HIV advice and counselling support services. All three areas are unfortunate to make the HIV ‘top ten’ in the UK, with hundreds of people relying on the HIV services commissioned to support people living there to have normal lives.
Help protect these services and sign this change.org petition calling for funding for the services to be maintained.
The petition was set up by Thomas Lange who some of you may recognise from First Dates – who knows first hand why these services are needed:
“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.”
Losing advice and counselling support services in Lambeth, Southwark and Lewisham would send a green light to other local authorities across England that they can get away with cuts to these vital services too.
We can’t risk a chain reaction of local authorities and CCGs believing they can get away with cuts to vital services because the areas where HIV has the biggest impact has done so. If we allow these cuts to take hold in the place the services are needed the most we will witness a domino effect that cannot be undone.
If Lambeth decides to cut their services anywhere else could be next, from large urban centres across the country with high rates of HIV to rural locations who only cater for a small number of people with the virus – but who are even more isolated than the majority of us living with it.
I wish we lived in a time where people with HIV could access generic advice and counselling services, free from prejudice regarding their condition, their behaviours and life choices – but sadly we don’t. Stigma – including internalised stigma, still prevents people with HIV from being able to access the support they need and discrimination and misconceptions of what it means to be HIV positive today are still rife in our society.
People with HIV need to be able to discuss their problems with professionals who won’t judge them, with advice experts who understand them and with their peers who have walked down the same path as them.
Specific HIV support services truly are a lifeline for many after their diagnosis, we can’t afford to lose them.