Plus Me contract comes to an end in Barnsley

Following a joint a review of HIV prevention and social support services in the borough for people living with or affected by HIV, Barnsley Council has taken the decision not to renew its contract with service provider Plus Me.

The service will come to an end on Tuesday, 31 July.

The review of services was carried out by the council’s Adult Joint Commissioning service and Public Health, and also involved a consultation with service users.

The latest data from Public Health England, shows that there has been no significant change in Barnsley’s rate of new HIV diagnoses (in people aged over 15) between 2011 and 2016.

The main aim of the Plus Me service was to identify new cases of HIV in the Barnsley population early, to prevent late diagnosis, which leads to ongoing transmission and poorer health outcomes for the patient.

During 2017, some 77 HIV tests were performed by Plus Me. Of these, no new cases of HIV were identified. This therefore suggests that the service is not achieving the outcomes outlined in the service specification.

As the prevalence of HIV is deemed low in Barnsley and alternative HIV testing is available, it is felt that there is no longer a need for the testing and prevention element of this additional service.

It is clear from the consultation with service users that, whilst individuals living with HIV are benefiting from the social support provided, this is limited to the same service users who are able to access support from other local sources. Given there have been no new service users in the last five years accessing the service for social support, this would indicate lack of demand or need for the service and therefore it is no longer required.

The existing group of service users will be supported and signposted to other services that can provide their ongoing support needs and give information on where individuals can access support in the community, whether this is counselling, a different support group, or access to food banks, advice around benefits or medical advice around the side effects of the medication taken for HIV.

Julia Burrows, Director of Public Health, Barnsley Council, said: “The nature of HIV has moved into a more chronic, long-term condition due to the advances in medical management. More people are living longer, healthier lives with HIV and there is less stigma attached to the condition.

“We will continue to raise awareness of HIV through our communications work and offer screening for the infection through Barnsley Integrated Sexual Health Service and Primary Care.

“We simply haven’t identified a need for these services anymore in Barnsley – evidenced by the data we gathered. This is something that’s happening nationally, with many similar services being decommissioned across England.

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