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Monday, March 29, 1999 Published at 18:01 GMT 19:01 UK


Manchester faces 1.5m Aids funding gap

HIV is increasingly being treated with combination drug therapy

A health authority is considering sharply reducing its social care budget for people with HIV unless the government changes its formula for allocating money for Aids.

Manchester health authority says it is 1.5m short on its overall Aids budget for 1999/2000.

The budget includes drug treatment for HIV positive patients, Aids prevention and social care.

Social care is mostly provided by charities which offer a range of services, such as helplines and information and advice.

Press reports at the weekend suggested the authority is considering cutting its budget for combination therapy.

Untenable

But a spokesman for the health authority said this was one option which was proposed for dealing with the shortfall and it had been ruled out.

"It is not tenable," he said.

The authority has seen a larger number than anticipated of people who qualify for combination therapy.

Around 350 Manchester residents are currently on combination therapy and the number is expected to rise in the next year.

This means the drug element of the health authority's Aids budget is predicted to rise from 2.4m this year to 3.4m next year.

It says this increase and the way central government allocates money for HIV treatment has caused a budget shortfall.

It says London health authorities get the equivalent of 20,000 per patient for combination therapy, compared with 9,000 per patient elsewhere.

This is because of the way HIV has developed in the UK, with London being by far the most affected.

However, Manchester has the second largest population of people with HIV in England and Wales.

Combination therapy - a cocktail of different Aids treatments - is very expensive and can cost up to 20,000 per person per year.

Steering group

Last year, a government steering group began work on reviewing the way funding is allocated.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Health said an announcement was expected "fairly shortly".

Manchester health authority says it has tried to find other money to cover its Aids budget shortfall.

For example, it tried to use money allocated for its Health Action Zone status, but found this was not possible.

In anticipation of a change in the funding formula, it has rolled out its Aids budget for this year for three months.

"We are hoping to get more money from a changed formula to redress the balance," said the spokesman.

"Otherwise we will have to look at our social care budget."

Combination therapy has changed the way people with HIV are treated.

It has reduced the virus to almost undetectable levels in many people, but it does not work for everyone.

The switch to combination therapy has meant that budgets for social care for Aids patients - once the only way to treat people with HIV - have been cut back across the country.



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