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Aids prevention cut as drug costs spiral
aids
Prevention losing out to drug costs, warns doctor
The rising cost of drugs to treat HIV and Aids is forcing cutbacks to prevention programmes, claims a leading doctor.

Demand for the drugs - which cost between 6,000 and 10,000 a year per patient - has risen by 30% in some areas over the past 12 months, while government funding has been frozen.

Increased demand for the treatment has been put down to more people surviving longer with HIV, growing numbers of new HIV infections and a larger proportion of sufferers accepting treatment.

Dr George Kinghorn, clinical director for communicable diseases at Hallamshire Hospital, Sheffield, says he has been forced to cut Aids prevention schemes.


We have to live within our budget and the amount of money available is being frozen or reduced

Dr George Kinghorn
He has also laid off 5% of staff dealing with the condition, including doctors and nurses. Health advisers, dieticians and physiotherapists have also been lost.

"We have to live within our budget and the amount of money available is being frozen or reduced," he said.

He warned of the danger to society of reducing access to sexual health services, adding: "The presence of sexually transmitted diseases also facilitates the transmission of Aids."

And without support services there was a greater chance of patients not taking their medication correctly, leading to an increased chance of developing Aids and requiring the more expensive drugs.

Combination therapies of drugs such as AZT with protease inhibitors have been available for around three years and have led to significant increases in survival rates.

Budgets stretched

The National Aids Trust said it was aware of concerns among doctors that budgets were being stretched.

A spokesman said: "The cake of money is enough at the moment but we believe it is going to have to increase in the future to cope with this demand."

A spokesman for the Terrence Higgins Trust added: "We know that demand for our services increased by 20% last year. People are living longer with HIV because of combination therapies, but their needs are increasing.

"Restricting budgets for health promotion is short-sighted. In the long-term, prevention is the best cure."

According to the Public Health Laboratory Service, there are 30,000 HIV sufferers in Britain and the number is rising by 10% a year.

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02 Sep 99 | Health
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