Councillors urged to make sure HIV patients get more support

There is a lack of HIV support in Barking and Dagenham

There is a lack of HIV support in Barking and Dagenham - Credit: Archant

Prospective councillors are being urged to make the borough’s high HIV rate a key issue in next month’s elections.

Infographic of HIV prevalence in London

Infographic of HIV prevalence in London - Credit: Archant

Currently, one in every 175 people in Barking and Dagenham is living with the virus, compared with one in 643 in the UK.

Of those who have the human immunodeficiency virus, more than half are diagnosed after they have had it for four years.

Speaking to the Post, a HIV-positive Barking resident has revealed his struggle with the once-terminal virus.

The 51-year-old man, who does not wish to be named, unknowingly contracted it from a former girlfriend, though he did not pass it on to his ex-wife or their daughter.

After he was diagnosed in 2002, he “felt as though my life was almost finished,” he said. “I was angry and distraught. I couldn’t do my job any more, and I couldn’t get a mortgage or insurance.” He said there are few local support services for those living with the virus.

The man, originally from Africa, said he visited the Naz project, a London-wide service providing prevention and support to black and minority ethnic people.

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The National Aids Trust feels councils could do more to help people who have the virus. Yusef Azad, director of policy and campaigns, said the elections in May will be the first since local authorities regained responsibility for public health, adding: “Now councillors and political groups can make a lasting difference to the lives of people with HIV.”

Late diagnosis increases the chance of worse health outcomes, decreased life expectancy and more chance of passing it on, he said.

“There needs to be more awareness and education. I don’t feel that they’re helping us at the moment,” said the Barking sufferer. “There is still stigma attached to HIV.”