HIV sufferers are worried the charity they describe as “their second home and lifeline” may be forced to close because volunteers can no longer afford to pay the bills.

Funding was withdrawn from The Crescent in Russell Avenue, St Albans, by Hertfordshire County Council last June and volunteers have so far continued to run the charity.

However, Iain Murtagh, head of operations, said he will be unable to work for free much longer and the doors may have to close.

The Crescent’s funding contract has been moved over to HertsAid, another HIV charity operating in Watford and Ware.

Mr Murtagh said: “I am afraid to say when my savings run out we will have to close. The number of people living with HIV in west Hertfordshire is higher, so it doesn’t make sense that they have moved our funding to HertsAid.”

The Crescent, which helps around 300 HIV sufferers a year, used to run five times a week, but has since cut back to three.

Many sufferers at The Crescent have vowed not to use HertsAid because they are concerned it is chaired by Sally Newton , county councillor and health scrutiny chairman.

Stuart, 51, has been visiting The Crescent weekly since being diagnosed nine years ago.

He said: “I won’t go to the HertsAid because I wouldn’t feel comfortable there. Sometimes it’s a struggle to get up in the morning but The Crescent makes it worthwhile.” John Evans, 70, who lives near the charity, said he would struggle to get to HertsAid because of mobility issues.

Diagnosed with HIV in 1998, he now volunteers at The Crescent to “give something back”.

He said: “I would have been homeless but they helped me get back on my feet. All my friends are here and if it were to close I would be very lonely. This is my life.”

Phil, who has been using The Crescent for five years and struggles to walk because of a knee replacement, said: “My mum drops me off here, so travelling to Ware would be impossible. If this place were to go, it would be like someone dying.”

Mother-of-three Rachel, who lives in Harpenden, was diagnosed with HIV in 2005 and said wouldn’t be alive if it wasn’t for the support she received.

Rachel, 47, said: “People seem so down about the closure and I am worried someone could take their own life because of it.”

Councillor Colette Wyatt-Lowe , cabinet member for health and adult care, said: “Sally Newton is chairman of the health scrutiny committee, a 25-member cross-party committee responsible solely for scrutinising health services.

“I can categorically state that Councillor Newton had no involvement with the decision not to renew The Crescent’s contract once it had expired and that proper procedures were followed throughout the process.”

She said organisations providing local services must provide evidence to show delivery of value for money and fulfilling the terms of contract.

She said The Crescent had consistently not provided the requested data whereas HertsAid showed evidence of providing a quality service at lower costs.

Councillor Wyatt-Lowe added: “In making these changes the county has been able to realise a 20 per cent efficiency saving.”