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Friday, 30 November 2018

MP reveals HIV diagnosis as he calls for review into sexual health budget cuts

Written by Ella Pickover

Ministers have been urged to review cuts to sexual health budgets by the first MP to announce that he has HIV during a House of Commons debate.

Lloyd Russell-Moyle (pictured), Labour MP for Brighton Kemptown, said he felt he had to speak out about an issue which affected him personally.

He is the first MP to reveal his HIV status in the House of Commons and the second ever MP to disclose he is living with HIV.

In an interview with the Press Association, he said: "Public health is actually the thing we should be investing more money in... but the Government have done a number of things that are really starting to erode that basis of public health.

"First of all they took it out of the NHS so it's no longer done by your doctor or your health service.

"Rather than having your doctor support you to stop smoking or your doctor supporting you into safe sex or sexual health programmes instead it's a different body of money that is supporting that.

"At the same time they've cut the money - a huge amount has been cut in the last few years and now they are proposing more.

"You and I all know that local councils are in crisis at the moment, they have got no more money and they are cutting everything that they see in sight, so I'm very nervous about it and the Labour party is very right to be raising the alarm bells about it. I hope the Government will listen."

Earlier this week figures published by Labour showed stark reductions on spending for some public health services between 2013/14 and 2016/17.

The party said that further cuts were expected between 2017/18 and 2018/19.

One of the figures highlighted in the analysis was that sexual health promotion, prevention and advice services in England have received a 29% cut per head - down to just £1.23 in 2016/17 from £1.72 in 2013/14.

During his speech, Mr Russell-Moyle called on the Government to review cuts to public health, including sexual health.

The Press Association also asked Mr Russell-Moyle about his views on the availability of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) - a drug taken by HIV-negative people before sex that reduces the risk of getting HIV.

"I've laid down a number of questions for the minister, particularly around PrEP - this pill you can take to stop you getting HIV," said Mr Russell-Moyle.

"It's almost completely effective and it is available for anyone that wants it in Scotland, anyone that wants it in Wales, for anyone that wants it in numerous places around the world.

"But in England, for some bizarre reason - not because of the cost of the drug itself but for some other spurious reasons - the Government has decided to cap it and so I've asked the Government a question about reviewing that cap because it doesn't seem to make sense."

Ian Green, chief executive of the sexual health charity Terrance Higgins Trust, added: "PrEP is an important element in the prevention armoury - PrEP, condom use, treatment as prevention and testing - all of those together are the components that we need to have in place to end HIV diagnoses.

"It is a scandal that we still don't have PrEP routinely commissioned to those who need it.

"Used properly it is 100% effective and the fact that we are still having to go through the charade of a trial in England anyway is scandalous.

"There is routine commissioning in Scotland, there is an open access trial in Wales, there is funding and access available in Northern Ireland and in England there is still this issue that we have to look at an implementation trial for people to access PrEP or people need to go online and buy PrEP themselves."

An NHS England spokesman said: "It's never been easier to get tested for HIV on the NHS and many clinics can give you same day results."

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2018, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Yui Mok / PA Wire.