HIV-Positive People in United Kingdom Experience Significant Decreases in Average Income as Result of Diagnosis, Report Says
People living with HIV/AIDS in the United Kingdom face living in poverty because of their HIV-positive diagnosis, according to a recently released report by the not-for-profit organizations Crusaid and the Terrence Higgins Trust, BBC News reports. The report, titled "Poverty and HIV -- Lessons from the Hardship Fund," found that HIV-positive people could lose their job or home because of debt and depression, and an increasing number of people with HIV/AIDS are applying for financial support through the National Hardship Fund (BBC News, 9/16). Crusaid operates the Hardship Fund in partnership with the Terrence Higgins Trust and the Elton John AIDS Foundation. The fund provides small grants to people in dire financial need as a result of AIDS, helping them to afford basic necessities (Crusaid Web site, 9/17). The organizations examined data and case studies from the fund, which has offered financial assistance to about 25% of HIV-positive people in the United Kingdom.
The report found that the fund in 2002 disbursed almost $1.2 million -- an "unprecedented" amount marking an increase of 47% since 2000 -- in financial assistance, according to BBC News (BBC News, 9/16). The increase represented a total of 4,195 awards to 3,183 people in 2002, up from 2,691 awards to 1,960 people in 2000 (Crusaid/Terrence Higgins Trust release, 9/16). In addition, the report showed that the average weekly salary of people seeking assistance dropped from $148.96 per week in 1999 to $103.36 per week in 2002. Figures for 2003 show that the trend is continuing, with average salaries falling to $90.86 per week, BBC News reports (BBC News, 9/16). Repeat applications to the fund are also increasing -- the number of people applying for assistance more than once a year has nearly doubled from 408 people in 2000 to 808 in 2002. Also, there has been a nearly 700% increase in the number of people applying for relief from personal debts incurred because of a loss of income as a result of their HIV status, according to the release (Crusaid/Terrence Higgins Trust release, 9/16). "The most productive people in our economy -- those who we would normally expect to earn money for themselves through work -- are now in a poverty trap as a result of repeat bouts of ill-health and the inability to find work because of stigma and discrimination," Steven Inman, head of grants and projects at Crusaid and manager of the Hardship Fund, said (BBC News, 9/16).
The report recommends that:
- Government establish a cross-departmental task force to address HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases, including measures to curb discrimination against HIV-positive people and people at risk for the disease.
- The recommendations on reform of the asylum system contained in the report titled "Migration & HIV: Improving Lives in Britain" are enacted.
- The Department for Work and Pensions undertake a review of its benefits system, enacting changes that would improve the agency's ability to support people with intermittent or relapsing illnesses, and work with groups to develop best-practice guidelines for employers to use in dealing with HIV-positive employees.
- Local authorities and housing organizations treat HIV-related abuse and violence just as they would address racist abuse and violence.
- The Department for Education and Skills include in the National Healthy Schools Standard accreditation scheme the treatment of children affected by HIV and other bloodborne diseases.
- The Department of Health issue guidelines for primary care staff to improve the availability of HIV testing and the quality of counseling for people who test positive.
- Research funding be directed toward projects examining the link between HIV, discrimination and poverty in the United Kingdom and strategies for breaking the cycle among them (Crusaid/Terrence Higgins Trust release, 9/16).