BY SARAH GREALISH
Two councillors have delivered a letter to the government urging proper funding to combat HIV.
Lambeth Labour councillors Ed Davie and Philip Normal arrived at the Department of Health on March 6 with the letter signed by 38 other councillors pleading to receive more funding for the London HIV Prevention Programme, which was praised by Sir Elton John last year.
The programme, hosted by Lambeth council, contributed to the decrease in HIV infections in at-risk groups by nearly 50 per cent in London last year by using Pre Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP), a medicine which can be taken by at-risk people.
The medicine has shown to be highly effective at stopping HIV infection. Although the government announced plans to extend the PrEP Impact Trial, resourcing has been a problem.
In the past four years, Lambeth’s public health grant from central government has been cut by £5.1 million.
Despite these cuts, Lambeth has not cut funding from sexual health prevention and spends one third of its grant on sexual health and HIV prevention.
Last year Public Health England revealed Lambeth had the highest rate of HIV diagnoses of all of UK local authorities, with 14 diagnoses per 1,000 residents.
Gill Perkin, chief executive of HIV awareness and prevention charity Wandsworth Oasis, said this was due to the hospitals that provide the support and the demographics of the people who live in the area.
She said: “A high proportion of people with an HIV diagnosis are from the Afro-Caribbean community and the gay population.
It’s a combination of the two demographics.’ In 2018, during the Princess of Wales HIV lecture hosted by the national AIDS Trust, Sir Elton John praised the work carried out by Lambeth council in its HIV prevention programmes.
Sir Elton said: “The UK has one of the best systems to treat people living with HIV in the world. We need to build on this and some excellent local HIV services to increase HIV diagnosis and get the people who need it into care.
I’m so proud we’re partnering with local government who have been on the frontlines of this disease for so long in the UK.”
Last week, hopes for a cure for HIV were raised when a London patient became the second ever person to be free from the sexually transmitted disease after a bone marrow transplant.
The man, who wishes to remain anonymous , came off the antiretroviral drugs after he received HIV-resistant stem cells and has had no symptoms since. Cllr Davie said: ‘Every new HIV diagnosis is a government failure, and with time being of the essence, we cannot delay in sending a strong message to the government that action needs to be taken now.
Our letter asks for the PrEP Impact Trial to be properly funded to reflect the real life costs of implementation, particularly to local government who fund sexual health services.”