HIV charities struggling to meet demand for help

Rt Rev Dr Angus Morrison with volunteers from Positive Help. Demands on their services has increased by around a quarter in 12 months. Picture: PA
Rt Rev Dr Angus Morrison with volunteers from Positive Help. Demands on their services has increased by around a quarter in 12 months. Picture: PA
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CHARITIES have reported a surge in the number of people seeking help for HIV and Hepatitis C.

Edinburgh-based Positive Help, which offers day-to-day support to sufferers, said demand for its services had risen by almost 25 per cent in the last year in the face of welfare cuts and an increasing number of people living longer with the illnesses.

Demand for Positive Help’s services has risen almost 25 per cent in the last year

Ray De Souza

And Waverley Care, Scotland’s leading HIV and Hepatitis C charity, revealed they had experienced an increase in demand from people diagnosed with Hepatitis C over the same period.

As of March this year, it is estimated there are 1552 people living with HIV across the Lothians – with 92 people newly diagnosed last year alone.

Figures for Hepatitis C are harder to come by, with 37,000 thought to be living with the condition in Scotland – and only around half of those aware they have the disease. Hep C, which targets the liver but can go unnoticed for as long as 20 years, is usually contracted through the sharing of needles during drug abuse.

Positive Help, which supports more than 550 people throughout Edinburgh and the Lothians – many of them children – said the “surge in demand” had left the charity urgently seeking extra volunteers.

The non-profit group ­receives financial support from the Church of Scotland to provide a range of services including home support, transport to and from hospital and even a “study buddy” scheme to help affected children cope with schoolwork.

But despite having 75 dedicated volunteers, charity bosses said booming demand had meant the transportation project could meet just seven out of every ten requests.

Ray de Souza, chair of Positive Help’s Board, said: “Demand for our services has risen almost 25 per cent in the last year in the face of pressure on statutory sector services, an increasing number of people living longer with HIV illness, and changes to the welfare benefits system.

“We work with some of the most seriously ill people living with HIV as well as with families affected by the disease.”

Grant Sugden, chief executive of Waverley Care, said that while HIV figures had remained constant, the charity was seeing increasing demand from people diagnosed with Hepatitis C as new drugs became available.

He said: “As new and more effective treatments for Hepatitis C have been launched over the last year, people are seeking support to prepare themselves physically and mentally to start treatment and then to sustain the treatment in the face of any side effects they may experience.

“Although there is no cure for HIV, the new Hepatitis C treatments are effective in clearing the virus in 90 per cent of people who take them.

“Support from charities like ourselves and Positive Help is the key for many people living with Hepatitis C to successfully complete treatment and move on with their lives.”