From the TUC

AIDS and austerity: Dangerous cuts

03 Dec 2011, by in Society & Welfare

World AIDS DayFBU Executive Council member Stewart Brown, who represents the FBU on the TUC LGBT Committee and helped negotiate the 2010 ILO Recommendation on HIV/AIDS and the World of Work, addressed the TUC World AIDS Day event on 1 December. Here are some extracts from his speech:

Next year the expected numbers of people living with HIV in the UK will reach 100,000, and yet the United Kingdom government wants to cut funding for local HIV/AIDS community groups. Trade unions around the world will be using World AIDS Day as a focus to promote action on HIV and AIDS in the workplace and to call for renewed international commitment to tackle the pandemic, which is responsible for some 5,000 deaths every day.

HIV/AIDS continues to be not only a serious public health problem but also a major challenge to development in many parts of the world. In 2009, some 2.6 million new infections were reported throughout the world while the total number of people living with HIV/AIDS in North America, Western Europe and Central Europe was estimated to have risen by some 30% in the same year.

Governments are increasingly under pressure due to the current financial and economic crisis to reduce expenditure on overseas aid and on public services. Both could impact on the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

We need to challenge complacency about the issue at national and global level and develop a coalition to assess and respond to developments.

In a recent article in the London Evening Standard there appeared a small but important news story. It said:

“HIV funding could be slashed in parts of London which have the highest rates of the virus in Britain. Lambeth and Southwark have more cases than anywhere else in the country yet budgets to fight the illness are facing the axe.”

It comes as rates of HIV have more than doubled in both boroughs in the last decade. Funding across the capital has already been cut by 20%. And the Pan London HIV programme has announced budget cuts for 2011/12 by half a million pounds.

To make such sweeping cuts to a community already devastated by the most horrendous disease, strikes me as downright ignorant, uninformed and plain stupid.

We must continue to pressure central and local government for increased funding, or at least no more cuts. We must work collectively with local community groups and make sure their voice is heard

Let’s send out a clear message that trade unions are playing their part in helping to eradicate this pandemic and also the stigma that lies with it. We all know we can do something so let’s go do it.

Zero new HIV infections. Zero discrimination. Zero AIDS-related deaths.

GUEST POST: Stewart Brown is a member of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) Executive Council, and represents the FBU on the TUC LGBT Committee.