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“This double blow will leave little or no specialist support for HIV positive people.” – the Brigstowe Project.

Illustration: Patrick Atkins

The Brigstowe Project, which provides housing-related support for 24 HIV-positive people in Bristol at a time, is facing a 100% cut in funding for the service from the council.

The council has calculated that cutting the Brigstowe Project’s funding will save £86,000 per year.

The news comes days after the Terrence Higgens Trust, another charity providing support for people living with HIV, announced it was closing its Bristol centre after the NHS changed its funding. Brigstowe stated in its press statement that the cuts together represented a ‘double blow which would leave little or no specialist support for HIV positive people living in Bristol’.

“The city must not turn its back on some of its poorest and most disadvantaged people.”

The charity, profiled recently in the Bristol Cable, has been providing specialist support for HIV-positive people in the city for 20 years. Bristol recently became a ‘high prevalence’ area for HIV, and saw an increase in the rate of new diagnoses. Behind Bournemouth, it has the second highest rate of HIV in the South West.

The charity previously faced cuts in 2011 and hired a solicitor to launch a court case against the council on the basis that they hadn’t completed an adequate equalities impact assessment (EQIA). The council conceded before the case was heard.

In its current EQIA for cutting the Brigstowe funding, which comes out of the ‘Supporting People’ budget, the council states that: “Service users in this group are predominantly African nationalities, recent migrants to the UK, have HIV and at risk of homelessness.”

The EQIA states the effect on service users will be mitigated as they “will be directed to other options for services” and that those accessing the HIV-related support can utilise “other less specialised services”.

However, Rami Ghali, Brigstowe’s co-ordinator, points out that continuing stigma towards people living with HIV necessitates specialist and confidential support:

“HIV stigma is still a major issue. An HIV diagnosis can have a big impact on an individual’s mental health, self-esteem and therefore ability to access mainstream services. For many of our clients, Brigstowe is the only place they feel able to turn to for help and advice. For too many of Brigstowe’s clients fear of discrimination and stigma is not only a fear, but also a reality.”

He added, “The city must not turn its back on some of its poorest and most disadvantaged people.”

Read about the work of the Brigstowe Project here.

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