December 1st is World Aids Day, and an opportunity for us all to show solidarity in the fight against HIV. Over 34 million people are living with HIV around the world, which is approximately the same number of people who have died from HIV-related illnesses since the virus was first identified in 1984.
Thanks to huge advancements in science, HIV is not only treatable but – with continued support for those who are researching ways to defeat it –beatable.
Over 100,000 people in the UK are estimated to be living with HIV in the UK. Of these, 17 per cent are still undiagnosed and do not know about their HIV infection. Even among those that were diagnosed, two-fifths were diagnosed late and one in four was diagnosed severely late.
It should only take one look at these worrying stats to see that HIV testing is among the most important ways that we can help tackle the spread of this disease, yet there has been a 2 per cent decrease in testing at sexual health clinics over the last year. That trend looks set to continue.
One of the biggest problems causing this trend is the Tory Government’s decision to axe £200m from local authorities under the title ‘Department of Health non-NHS savings’.
At the time a Treasury spokesperson said that this would not affect frontline services, yet Oxfordshire Country Council have earmarked £50,000 to be cut from their ‘Intervention and preventative services – HIV’ in their Budget savings options for 16/17.
World Aids Day should be reminder to the government and Oxfordshire County Council that this is a time for more preventative measures, not less. I call on the council to protect this budget and re-affirm their commitment to fighting this terrible disease.