First item of business for new Health Sec - reinstate funding for HIV Scotland

Scottish Liberal Democrat health spokesperson Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP has today led a cross party group of MSPs in writing to the First Minister and new Health Secretary to ask that they reinstate funding for HIV Scotland.

The call comes after it was revealed that the Scottish Government could be about to strip the organisation of most of its core funding, a decision that HIV Scotland said left the organisation “critically short staffed” and with key programs “at risk”.

The organisation has enjoyed full government funding since it was established in 1994 at the height of the HIV epidemic. The call from all opposition parties today is simple: this should be the first thing on Jeanne Freeman’s desk. She should reverse this decision immediately.

Alongside Mr Cole-Hamilton, the signatories to the letter are Scottish Greens leader Patrick Harvie, Scottish Greens health spokesperson Alison Johnstone, Scottish Conservative health spokesperson Miles Briggs, Scottish Labour health spokesperson Anas Sarwar and former Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale.

Alex Cole-Hamilton said:

“HIV Scotland is an award winning and dedicated charity which has bettered the lives of thousands of Scots. They should be allowed to continue that work not forced to fight for their existence.

“Given the recent surge in infections in Glasgow, now seems a particularly ludicrous time to choke its operations.

“HIV is growing in Scotland, 13% of Scots infected with the virus don’t know they have it. That’s where HIV Scotland come in. They exist to raise public awareness and get people tested and into treatment.

“The SNP’s decision to defund them is not only short-sighted it’s dangerous and could lead to widespread harm further down the line. In the context of a government underspend of nearly half a billion pounds, the £270,000 required by the charity is effectively change down the back of the sofa.

“All opposition parties are united in our condemnation of this disastrous decision. The new Health Secretary should reverse it immediately.”

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