Guardian (London) (02.06.02) - Wednesday, February 06, 2002
British AIDS groups are warning that HIV transmission will
rise and ignorance of the virus will worsen as a result of the
government's intention to scrap dedicated funding for local
prevention work. Beginning in April, English localities will
no longer be allocated funds specifically for HIV prevention
projects. Instead, the money will be merged with general local
health budgets, and it will be up to the new primary care
trusts (PCTs) to determine their spending priorities.
The change comes at a time when HIV is spreading faster than
ever in Britain. By 2005, the number of people living with HIV
is predicted to climb by almost 50 percent. HIV/AIDS
organizations fear that once dedicated funds are abolished,
prevention work will shrink and, in some areas, disappear.
Without an imperative on PCTs to undertake prevention work,
they say, decisions on funding will be inconsistent.
"Effectively, HIV is being de-prioritized," said Lisa Power,
head of policy at the Terrence Higgins Trust, an HIV/AIDS
charity. Dedicated money has been a key factor in keeping
Britain's HIV rate one of western Europe's lowest, Power said.
"We're throwing that away. This decision will lead to a lot
less information and support on the ground."
New HIV cases hit a record 3,342 in England last year -- up 17
percent from the previous year. For the third year in a row,
more heterosexuals were diagnosed than gay men. About 502
people die of AIDS in Britain each year. John Godwin, head of
policy at the National AIDS Trust, fears that PCT decision-
makers are "unlikely" to sustain funding for HIV prevention.
"This issue is politically unpopular at local level as it
involves the most marginalized groups," he said. A Department
of Health spokesperson said the national strategy will include
a safer sex campaign dealing with HIV. "We believe it is right
and proper that HIV treatment and care and prevention services
should now be brought into mainstream [National Health
Service] delivery," she said.