Only support service for vulnerable people with HIV in Leeds to be axed by city council

Leeds’ only HIV support service faces closure, prompting fears it could leave hundreds of vulnerable people at risk.

Saturday, 17th October 2015, 7:00 am
16 October 2015....... Support worker Hilda Achola chats with a service user at BHA, Leeds Skyline, which Leeds City Council are planning to cut funding to. The decision has been criticised by the BHA organisation, who fear people with HIV and AIDS will have nowhere to turn for support. Picture Tony Johnson

BHA Leeds Skyline, on The Headrow, has received notification from Leeds City Council that its contract will not be renewed as of March 31 next year.

The council cited the £2.8million public health cut handed down by the Government earlier this year as a major reason for the decision but said it will work with service users and staff to address any uncertainty.

The director of the HIV support service has branded the decision “short sighted” and called on policy makers to consider the wellbeing of the 1,200 to 1,300 people in the city living with HIV and AIDS.

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Further cuts to services such as smoking cessation, physical health work and suicide prevention will be discussed by the council’s health scrutiny board on Tuesday.

Jeni Hirst, director of service development and delivery at BHA, said the move will have a “huge effect” further down the line and will leave vulnerable people without support. She said: “If noone’s there to support them to remain on medication and that sort of thing it’s a timebomb waiting to happen.”

She added that it could make it hard to motivate people to be tested if there is no aftercare.

BHA supports 450 people with HIV in Leeds every year, offering help to people who often encounter racism, homophobia and even violence as a result of their diagnosis. It has been providing support in Leeds since 2007 as well as prevention work, which will continue.

Dr Ian Cameron, the council’s director of public health, said: “At present we are not in a position to make a final decision on the future funding of this service. What we are clear about is our desire to ensure the wellbeing of those currently using the service.”