Britain’s Welfare Cuts Push People Living with HIV into Poverty

As a result of welfare reforms by the British government, thousands of people living with HIV in the UK are facing the very real prospect of not being able to afford basic amenities like regular meals.

The Terrence Higgins Trust (THT) released a new report this week detailing how last year it saw a 63% rise in the number of people needing emergency help from its HIV assistance program, all because the claimants’ welfare benefits had either been cut or stopped entirely under the Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition’s welfare reforms.

The trust’s HIV & Poverty report is based on an analysis of nearly 2,000 applications that were made in 2012 to its Hardship Fund, which allots £250 as an emergency grant. The data sets also include figures recorded throughout 2013. Together, they paint a grim picture.

According to the report, the majority of awarded grants were used to cover the basic cost of living, for example paying for food (47% of requests) and clothing (10%). Furthermore, the report also manages a sideways glance at the way the government’s welfare reforms, attacked by critics as being overly hostile to those in poverty, are dogging those living with HIV. Almost 86% of applications were made by people whose benefits were “under review” or had been stopped altogether. †The number of people who needed and received more than one grant per year also rose over 2012 and 2013 by 42%.

Since coming into power, the coalition government has systematically changed sickness benefits in ways that, HIV charities have warned, have disproportionately affected people living with HIV. For instance, changes to what is known as employment support allowance criteria have in many cases led to those living with HIV to be cut from sickness benefits entirely despite the fact that the severity of their HIV symptoms have not improved.

On average, the amount of money an applicant was receiving every week was just £49 (about $82). To put that in perspective, the minimum wage is £6.31 for over 21s. It doesn’t take much math to work out that without assistance, those living with HIV could have to survive a week on as little as a day’s pay at minimum wage, something that is unsustainable for any protracted length of time.

Paul Ward, Acting Chief Executive of Terrence Higgins Trust, is quoted as saying: “In an age when highly effective treatments mean people with HIV can live long and healthy lives, it is nothing short of a disgrace that HIV and poverty should still so often go hand in hand. Last year, one in every 40 people diagnosed with HIV applied to our Hardship Fund. †… †The numbers in this report should act as a warning sign at all levels of government that people with HIV are not receiving the level of support needed to meet the most basic of costs. It is vital that people with HIV are fairly assessed and that financial support is sufficient to allow them to eat, clothe themselves and stay warm, and ultimately regain long-term financial security.”

Meanwhile, David Asbo of the British HIV Association and a recognized clinician, has revealed he has proscribed supplements for people living with HIV because, otherwise, their HIV treatment will be less effective. He is quoted as saying:

“Sometimes I have to prescribe food supplements to help them. If this is one of the unintended consequences of benefit changes, I think it’s very important that it’s looked at. About 70 to 80 per cent of all treatments for HIV have to be taken with a meal. Thatís critical to the success of these treatments, and they have to be taken regularly and on time. Taking [medication] with food optimises the absorption and has an impact on effectiveness. There’s one treatment that has to be taken with a 400-calorie meal; there is evidence that, if you take it on an empty stomach, that compromises the treatment.”

To tackle this issue, the Terrence Higgins Trust is recommending a number of solutions. Chief among them is that the government must reconsider its welfare assessment criteria to ensure fair and impartial evaluations (free from targets to cut the number of claimants) and takes into account the need to cover basic living costs.

Furthermore, the Trust calls on the British government to work with local authorities to ensure that they are also properly assessing and meeting the needs of their residents. †The Trust is also calling for an inquiry into the welfare reforms and how the situation for people living with HIV has been allowed to get so serious.

Photo credit: Thinkstock.


Past Member
Past Member 2 years ago

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Lynn C.
Lynn C3 years ago


steven a.
steven a3 years ago

I hope your right Dennis D. the systems so badly scewed at the moment people are actually starving to death.

Rehana VN
Rehana VN3 years ago


Dennis D.
Dennis D3 years ago

Jacob R./Steve R. Always willing to dance on the graveyards.. My what a funny little S. African immigrant you are here. One would think that you had no humanity. That you are an Ayn Rand disciple. From your post a person would be right. Here is a clue Steve R/Jacob R. The world is not as morally bankrupt as you would like it to be. The world is far from perfect, but at the very least good people. not all liberals either are trying to work very hard to make the playing field as level as possible.

What will now happen is that in England a shift in priorities will occur. Those that have fell through the cracks will be covered again. It is going to take the will of their citizens to do it.

The money is there. It is just not being prioritized correctly.

Much like here in the States. the money is already there. It will be to prioritize what is needed. Eliminating all those tax breaks, you think the wealthy now enjoy, to go away. This gilded age has lasted long enough. uit long past time for the wealthy to step up and pay. Even Warren Buffet the 4th richest man on the planet is leading that charge.

Fi T.
Past Member 3 years ago

They're not different from others and so also protected by the society

Nils Anders Lunde
PlsNoMessage se3 years ago


John S.
Past Member 3 years ago

Or, from another article: "Faced with an NHS plunging into deficit, London HIV clinics have been told that they will be given no more money to pay for HIV treatments and care in the financial year starting in April, other than 4% to account for inflation." "This is despite that fact that patient numbers are forecast to rise by 11% next year." But realize the post code lottery has a big impact, so why some councils have no money, others do. "And Haemophilia services have been told to make drastic cutbacks."

So much for supporting gay marriage, as The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that homosexuality and bisexuality cause 85% of HIV infections in America (“high-risk heterosexual activity” is defined as non-homosexuals -- mostly women -- who had sexual intercourse with a “bisexual.”). Sorry, unattended consequences.

steven a.
steven a3 years ago

@ Judy M.
"And this is what our new healthcare plan is being modeled after
we have been told how great UK healthcare plan for everyone is"

Our wealfare scheam was magnificent once. now it is being dismantled and privatised by our concervative/libral democrat government. very soon we'll have HMO's like in the states (american HMO's already working theirway in) If obahma's healthcare plan works as it should it will be the best thing that ever happened to americas sick and the worst thing for the capitalists who make profit of the ill and ignore those who cant pay.

Take long hard look at who's trying to stop the healthcare plan stateside and who's trying to destroy the NHS in the UK. its the same scum who make money from party donations from private health care and supply companies.

Sue Matheson
Sue Matheson3 years ago