A BOURNEMOUTH charity which has supported people living with HIV for more than 30 years, is having to cut services, thanks to a massive drop in its funding.

A statement from Body Positive, which is based on Lorne Park Road said: "Unfortunately, due to a loss of funding, Body Positive Dorset will be closed for drop-in from 21st December 2018.

"The centre will re-open in the new year for drop-in on Fridays only. Support will continue on an appointment basis on week-days apart from Thursdays. The trustees are working hard to ensure that Body Positive Dorset continues to provide support and educational services, these services will hopefully be provided from smaller premises."

The service cut will hit 45 service users directly and will have a further effect on 85 service users, the Echo understands.

Centre manager, Samantha Dawson, who was a service user herself, said: "We have lost over 85 per cent of our funding over the last two years, including our major supporters Borough of Poole and Bournemouth Borough Council. Neither now provide any financial support whatsoever for their HIV Positive residents.

"At a time when all charities are struggling for funding it is increasingly difficult for Body Positive Dorset to raise funds in order to support our vulnerable and discriminated against service users."

She believes the problem is partly because whilst Bournemouth has a high prevalence of HIV, the area is regarded as 'rural' compared to somewhere like London. "Sadly, however, this will have a serious knock-on effect to our users. It's not just a sympathetic ear but we also provide facilities for people to do their washing, cooking and have a cup of tea."

She said the cut in opening times would hit homeless people with HIV as many had no income. "I'm quite worried how it's going to affect the most vulnerable users," she admitted.

One user called Trish told the Echo: "The centre and its staff are very inspirational, not only do they support the families, they also go out into the community with educational input explaining about HIV and sadly trying to alleviate the stigma that is still attached to HIV."

She described the centre as 'a family'.

"It helps people to get back on track, even with tasks like completing paper work. They also support people with attendance at hospitals for medication and blood tests and with emotional support. I have visited the centre many times; you can walk in feeling very low and walk out with a smile upon your face."

The centre is named after Princess Diana, whose work helped de-stigmatise the HIV virus and AIDS, the serious illness it can lead to, and its building was opened 20 years ago by the late Princess's mother, Frances Shand-Kydd.

The Echo contacted Bournemouth and Poole Borough councils for comment but none was received as we went to press.