Coventry City Council Cut Sexual Health Services Budget

Figures obtained by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism has revealed that Coventry city council has opted to cut spending on sexual health services by almost half a million pounds. This is despite statistics that claim that Coventry and the West Midlands has some of the highest rates of HIV per capita in the country.

“We are disappointed to hear that Coventry City Council has chosen to make this decision, however, we know that similar cuts are happening across England.” Liam Bettie is the Parliamentary and Campaigns Officer at The Terrence Higgins Trust, an HIV & sexual health charity and says that this is part of a nationwide trend.

“Due to the decision to remove sexual health services from direct NHS funding, they are now subject to significant cuts as a result of persistent central government cuts to local authority public health budgets, from which they are now funded.”

In 2017, the Local Government Association warned that sexual health services were now at a “tipping point”, this comes as there has been an increased demand to services by around 25% over the last 5 years. In Coventry, this increased demand coupled with budget cuts has lead to longer waiting times to see specialists and test results taking longer than the two week target period to return for paitients. 

Coventry and the surrounding region has a notoriously high STI count, with 9 in 1000 people having contracted an infection in comparison to 8 in 1000 as per the English average. In terms of HIV infections, Coventry still has the highest rate of HIV in the West Midlands with just over 3 in every thousand people aged 15-59 years in the City living with the condition.

As Liam Bettie explains spending cuts to sexual health services in areas of high HIV prevalence is happening in other parts of England to the detriment of those most at risk.

In London, which continues to have the highest number of HIV infections six sexual health clinics closed in the last twelve months alone. These cuts have the potential to undo efforts that have seen a decline in HIV infections, if people are being turned away from oversubscribed clinics.”

“We recommend that people at increased risk of HIV, including gay and bisexual men, transgender women and people from BAME communities, have an HIV test every three months. HIV tests should be considered a normal part of people’s health management routine, just like going to the dentist or opticians. A test can also be done in less than 60 seconds.

HIV stigma continues to be the biggest barrier for people to get tested for HIV and where necessary, to access HIV treatment. Unfortunately societal attitudes have not kept up with scientific advances in HIV prevention and care. Putting an end to the stigma associated with HIV will help more people access testing services and get us to zero new HIV infections. We also know school-based education is crucial tool to debunk the myths around HIV and we are calling on the UK Government to ensure that compulsory Relationships & Sex Education lessons, that we successfully campaign for,  will include up-to-date information about the virus.”

 

David Aston

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.