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Shadow Health Minister pledges to Attitude that she will fight Theresa May’s HIV support services cuts

By Samuel McManus

This week, Attitude raised huge concern about reports that funding for HIV support services has been cut throughout England and Wales. Most shockingly, this has been done quietly, and as a result is putting thousands of lives at risk. Being diagnosed with HIV is difficult enough, let alone having to find the strength to go through such an experience alone and without any support or guidance. These services are crucial, and we believe Theresa May needs to rectify the issue immediately. In response to our story, Shadow Minister for Public Health, Sharon Hodgson, has pledged to Attitude that she will raise the issue in Parliament.

To show just how important these services are, we’ve chatted with Londoner, Christian, who was diagnosed back in 2009 with HIV. After making attempts on his life twice, he was saved thanks to the support he was able to get. How does the news about the cuts to support services make you feel? Anxious – especially for those newly diagnosed. I know back in 2009 when I received my diagnosis, it was the support services that I had access to which saved my life. You talk openly about suicide following your diagnosis, are you hoping your bravery will stop others doing a similar thing? Firstly, suicide, its thoughts and tendencies like HIV, are a subject of taboo amongst some. I’ve heard things like ‘oh such-and-such’ a person would never do that. The thing is people do not know what demons others are fighting so don’t be quick to judge. Secondly, me overcoming suicide – It’s not bravery. I would never say that I am brave – I was dealt a card and I choose how to handle it, albeit not the best way initially. However it’s down to the support services, not my ‘bravery’, that I would hope stop others from doing a similar thing. Why didn’t you visit support services initially? I was in-denial about the whole diagnosis as well as being in shock and quite frankly, I tried to run away from it. What role did they play in helping you come to terms with having HIV? The support services gave me meaning to life, to go on, to know that I can have a normal life. What do you believe the impact of these cuts will have on those living with the disease? For those newly diagnosed who may be in a similar position to what I was in – i dread to think. For those who need ongoing support still – some needing it on a daily basis. I think it will be detrimental to their well-being and way of life. I really do worry for people in this situation. For me as someone who is living with HIV – I currently am not accessing any services, but should the time come that I need to, I worry that I may no longer have that option. Is there anything you’d like to say to Theresa May in response? I would like to think she will consider these factors mentioned and take heed to the necessity of them. I would like her to meet people such as myself who have relied on these services and take action to ensure that cuts are not made.