‘We will not cut HIV spending’, say Barking and Dagenham Council

The council insists the amount spent on preventing and testing HIV - which affects one in 150 people - will not fall when the authority is given new public health spending responsibilities.

It follows fears from charity, National AIDS Trust (NAT, that councils will cut spending in this area after power to finance health programmes, such as sexual health schemes, is transferred from the NHS to local authorities on April 1.

Spending on HIV will not be ring-fenced, so authorities can choose how much money goes towards prevention and testing.

There are currently 629 people aged 15 to 59 who have been diagnosed with HIV in Barking and Dagenham and it is estimated a further 24 per cent have the virus.

The figure, which has more than trebled since 2002, means the borough has one of the highest prevalence of people living with HIV in the whole of the UK.

Deborah Jack, chief executive of NAT, said: “Disinvestment in HIV prevention and testing would seriously harm public health, especially in an area like Barking and Dagenham which has a high rate of HIV.”

A council spokeswoman said it had no plans to “disinvest” in either HIV treatment or prevention services.

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She added: “The new responsibilities being passed to us will allow for a greater targeting of services that will meet local need.

“We also have plans to expand our existing community HIV testing programme to encourage more people to come forward for early testing.”