London-wide HIV prevention programme to face 10% budget cuts

The London HIV Prevention Programme (LHPP)’s budget is set to be cut by 10% as part of wider public health cuts.

The London Councils’ Leaders’ Committee was asked to endorse the cuts at a meeting yesterday.

The London Borough of Lambeth commissioned the LHPP in 2014 on behalf of all local authorities in the capital to address the high prevalence of HIV. Almost half of all new HIV diagnoses in 2014 were in London.

The programme is due to expire in March 2017. Council leaders were asked to approve it for a further two years, but with a cut in the total funding from borough councils from £1.2m a year to £1.08m.

The report said that the cuts were needed because of national cuts to public health budgets. Councils took over responsibility for public health under the Health and Social Care Act 2012, but the budget is due to be cut from £3.47bn to just under £3bn by 2021. Earlier this year, the Health Select Committee called the cuts “a false economy”.

After March 2019, there will be no ring-fenced funding for public health because councils will fund themselves through 100% business rates retention, which London Councils has previously said could lead to its local authorities losing funding.

The cuts come despite the programme successfully meeting its goals. A survey found that almost 70% of respondents who had seen the ‘Do It London’ public awareness campaign felt it had positively influenced their sexual behaviour and attitude towards HIV testing. It has also been linked to a drop in the overall rate of new HIV diagnosis in capital and in the percentage of HIV infections diagnosed late.

The LGA has used the LHPP as a case study of good practice in local authority sexual health commissioning. London mayor Sadiq Khan has described it as “a genuinely collaborative response to a London-wide issue” which has his “full support” to continue beyond 2017.

London Councils said it was confident that the savings could be achieved because Lambeth council has already been able to make efficiency savings in the programme. For example, it secured a 36% increase in the number of condoms being distributed for £1.2m less than the previous NHS campaign.

Yusef Azad, director of strategy at the National AIDS Trust, said: “NAT welcomes the commitment to continue the London HIV prevention programme for a further two years; it is an innovative and collaborative approach for the capital.  We are disappointed to see a reduction in financial contributions – at this time we need more, not less, investment in prevention.  We would also emphasise that the LHPP does not replace the need for local authorities to understand and meet the HIV prevention needs of their residents, through their public health responsibilities.”

(Image c. London Councils)

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