Austerity measures could undermine treatment, care and support for people living with HIV/AIDS in the UK, warns the TUC

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Austerity measures could undermine treatment, care and support for people living with HIV/AIDS in the UK, warns the TUC

Kay Carberry, TUC Assistant General Secretary, in her address to a seminar held in Congress House on the occasion of the World AIDS Day, expressed serious concern over the impact of current austerity measures on the lives of those infected with or affected by HIV/AIDS in the UK. She pointed out that some 65,000 people had access to treatment and care for HIV in 2009 in the UK, warned that the current squeeze on public spending was bound to have adverse effects on the amount and quality of services available to them and emphasized the importance of workplace-based action in combating the epidemic.

Stewart, Sue and Anamaria (left to right)

Sue Ferns, Head of Research and Specialist Services at Prospect, who chaired the seminar entitled 'AIDS in a Time of Austerity', in her opening remarks, told the gathering that the theme was an apt reminder of the need for resources to fight the disease and that trade unions were important partners in it, not only as defenders of employment and human rights of those affected by the pandemic, but also, as staunch defenders of public services available to them.

Eleanor Briggs, Assistant Director, Policy and Campaigns National AIDS Trust, detailed the potential impact on the people living with HIV/AIDS of the welfare reforms underway and pointed to some provisions enshrined in the Equality Act 2010 which would facilitate the elimination of stigma and discrimination at workplace. She also mentioned the disproportionately high impact of the disease on some sections of society, underscored the need for more resources to help them and referred to some cases in London in which the patients had been asked to change treatment regimes in order to save money.

Combating AIDS through workplace action Ana Maria Bejar, Head of Team for Latin America and the Caribbean at the International HIV/AIDS Alliance, expressed disappointment over the cancellation of Round 11 of the Global Fund which, she said, would impact negatively on people living with HIV/AIDS throughout the world. She further said that the UK should play a leading role in the fight against the epidemic at global level and that the recently announced cuts in the UK Aid budget would send the wrong signal in this regard.

Stewart Brown, member of the Executive Council, Fire Brigades Union, in his presentation to the Seminar, drew particular attention to the situation in the UK, warned against complacency about the disease and pointed out that the scale of the epidemic in some countries, especially, in sub-Saharan Africa, had sometimes been used to distract attention away from the UK scene. He stressed that the trade unions could do a great deal in terms of awareness-raising, lobbying and advocacy and in facilitating the implementation of workplace policies including the ILO Recommendation on HIV/AIDS and the World of Work and called for renewed international commitment to tackle the pandemic

Alan Phippen, Southwest Equality officer, NASWUT, in his intervention from the floor spoke in detail of the numerous problems faced by people living with HIV/AIDS in the UK. He said that many suffered from the effects of isolation, depression and stress, that the maintenance of support services through the voluntary sector was vital and that any cuts in the available funds for PLWHA would have a serious impact on their quality of life.

In the discussion, consensus emerged on the need to maintain the current level of services available for people living with HIV/AIDS, to prioritize prevention strategies, especially, among the vulnerable sections in society and support global action to combat the epidemic.

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