This morning I received an email about HIV and Poverty from the Terrence Higgins Trust asking me to contact my local council’s cabinet member to find out what is being done by the council to support people living with HIV who are in financial difficulties. However, since in Northern Ireland health, social care, and benefits are not issues that are dealt with by local councils (as in England), I thought it would be better to write to the Ministers for Health and Social Development, and the members of the two relevant Assembly Committees at Stormont.
My basic letter is below. If you would like to use it as a template for your own, please feel free to do so and to amend as you see fit.
Dear [insert name of MLA],
The Terrence Higgins Trust has produced a report on HIV and Poverty in the UK (www.tht.org.uk/poverty), informed by applications to the Hardship Fund and looking at the reasons why people with HIV require financial support for basic needs. As a member of the Assembly’s Health/Social Development* Committee, I thought you might find this report of interest.
As you will know, poverty can have a significant negative impact on a person’s health. For example, almost half of the applicants to the Hardship Fund needed help maintaining a good diet, requiring financial assistance for food. Others were struggling to stay warm, travel to medical appointments, or to cope with their financial situation without harmful levels of stress. For people living with long-term conditions, such as HIV, the impact of poverty on health can be even more substantial.
As you may know, I am living with HIV and have an interest in Northern Irish politics. I would like to know what the Assembly, Department for Health/Social Development*, and the Committee for Health/Social Development* are doing to help those people living with HIV and possibly facing serious financial problems across the Province. What financial, social, and emotional support is available locally for people who face financial problems? What financial, social, and emotional support is there for people who are struggling with basic living costs, benefits assessments, unemployment, or being unable to work due to a medical condition?
Any information you can provide would be much appreciated.
Thank you for reading this and I look forward to your response.
[insert your name]
* delete as appropriate.
You can find out information about the membership of the two committees from the links below (at niassembly.gov.uk)