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Will the NHS cut HIV prevention funding or not?

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  1. Thankfully the NHS has reversed its decision to cut HIV prevention budgets. Rather than using this news to herald a new approach to tackling soaring HIV infection rates in our community, however, Matthew Hodson of Gay Men Fighting AIDS merely states that the proposed cut would have been disastrous for gay men’s health, Now, this is a but rich considering that charities like his and The Terence Higgins Trust have been a disaster themselves in their spending of the HIV prevention budget. Of course the gay press “rallied the troops”, as he says, to prevent the budget cut, but surely this was a need to safeguard their own advertising revenues than a desire to see the HIV charities continue with business as usual. Indeed, kudos to Boyz magazine in its coverage of this story, and for daring to shame two of its regular advertisers, the GMFA and the THT, into effective action by stating clearly that their politically correct methods have failed miserably, and in calling for the return to the fear-based campaigns that were so effective in stemming the rise of HIV in the 1990’s. Rupert Everett says the same thing in the latest issue of Out, stating that the destigmatization of HIV, which these charities have played a key role in normalizing, has made the HIV virus in the eyes of many no more of a nuisance than catching a cold. It would be heartening to now see Pink News follow suit and to start an open and honest dialogue on what needs to be done to reverse the damage done by those funded by the NHS to protect our health, but who are blindly following a politically correct agenda that is effectively having the opposite effect. Unless those charities awarded their vast NHS budgets start to educate us truthfully on what it is really like to live with HIV today, shocking into submission those who are now turning to unsafe sex with all of the gruesome details bar none, then very soon having the virus will be the norm in our community and those who are negative will be marginalised, as has already happened in urban gay ghettoes in the States. It is simply not good enough for them to spout PC rhetoric at every turn, stating ad nauseum that they must safeguard the feelings of those with the virus by not demonizing the virus in their HIV campaigns. Quite honestly, those who are stupid or selfish enough to systematically practise unsafe sex and acquire HIV in the process do not deserve to have their feelings protected at the cost of others becoming infected because, a) they are not being told the truth about HIV, or b) being scared into protecting themselves and each other, and who instead are presented in the pages of Boyz and QX with the same old namby pamby PC messages that don’t register and wash over their heads. Our community is becoming more and more diseased but we are letting it happen because there is no united effort demanding that these organisations change their approach; instead we continue to blindly throw money into their collection tins. It is high time we said ENOUGH! and demanded that HIV prevention campaigns aimed at gay men are designed in consultation with the public (i.e. us!) and HIV clinicians on the frontline who are having to deal with the fallout, instead of behind cobbled together behind closed doors by a chosen few to a politically correct agenda. If we continue to ignore the elephant in the room and look the other way, then our eventual annihilation as a community is assurred.

  2. I fully agree with Peter’s sentiments and I make a point of raising it with every THT or GMFA outreach worker that crosses my path.I still remember the iceberg and the tombstone from my teenage years, and I clearly remember being scared to have sex because I wasn’t sure what it was okay too and what it wasn’t for a long time.The message has been watered down too much. “Its not a dead sentence any more” – it f##king is. “Combination therapy can allow you to live a normal life” – it can allow a few to live a normal life, a large number to live an almost normal live, and some it can allow to live, but not all. The drugs are toxic. They cause horrendous side effects that most of us would run a mile from it we had the choice.I can understand that for those of us living with HIV/AIDS an ad popping up on telly every 15 minutes telling us we’re going to die might be a bit disturbing, but we are and that’s the bottom line. People need to be aware again of what it really means to have HIV and to die of AIDS. It is not glamorous, it is not sexy. However liberated and right on I am, I will never get over the shame of my parents finding out that the reason I was lying in a hospital bed close to death was because I had developed AIDS. Shame that I had not been more careful. Shame that I had not protected myself better against something that I knew all about and the consequences of. Shame that I had thrown away everything that they had worked so hard to give me. Shame that they had gone without so many times to give me the best start in life they possibly could and I had repaid them by throwing it all away.We really need to go back to basics. It you contract HIV, you will develop AIDS and you will die prematurely.

  3. Can somebody please explain to me why these precious NHS prevention resources are being poured into not one but TWO ongoing PEP campaigns (one depicting a fire extinguisher by the THT, the other featuring a sand-timer courtesy of the GMFA)? Why aren’t these resouces instead being chanelled into the kind of hard hitting HIV prevention campaigns that are now being widely called for by our community, and which would negate the need for PEP to be promoted so heavily in the first place?Isn’t the approach of these organisations in this respect rather like shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted? And what message are these PEP campagns sending out anyway? I read recently that STI clinics in London are prescribing PEP habitually to the same gay men, and that these campaigns are fostering a common perception among such irresponsible individuals of PEP as a morning after pill. Surely, with PEP costing £600 per course to prescribe, its efficacy not even proven and, being an AIDS drug itself, the many harmful effects PEP has on the body and the future resistance to HIV medications it causes, it is sheer madness to be pushing PEP so heavily, and at the expense of the sort of graphic HIV prevention campaigns that were so effective 20 years ago, and to which I attribute my HIV free status. I would wholeheartedly voice my support for a return to basics and a debate in our gay press to start in earnest to discuss the direction of HIV prevention in our community. While providing many useful services, clearly the THT and GMFA are failing us in their most important task. It is time for a radical change in approach to help reverse the unacceptable levels of HIV in our community.

  4. How dare Matthew Hodgson describe the reinstatement of HIV campaign funding as “a great start to the New Year”! It won’t be a great New Year for the thousands of gay men he has failed in his organization’s shortsighted use of these precious funds, and who, unlike him, have nothing much to look forward to thanks to their newly-acquired HIV. When the head of one of these so-called “charity” outfits finally admits that they may not have all the answers after all, that they have made numerous mistakes, and that HIV campaigns will not be green lit from this point on without first being tested on focus groups to assess their impact and efficacy, then we may have something to get excited about. Until then, however, God help us all.

  5. Steve Cole 31 Dec 2007, 5:08pm

    Popperstoppers was a campaign formed in the 1990’s by HIV positive gay men to ban the retail sale of poppers. It was co-ordinated by Cass Mann, CEO of the gay men’s health charity Positively Healthy. For years Mann had argued that poppers are highly immunosuppressive and carcinogenic, and were a key facilitator in HIV transmissions among gay men. Indeed, AIDS pioneer Dr. Robert Gallo had long voiced his opinion that poppers was the primary cause of Kaposi’s sacoma – the so-called “gay cancer” that introduced AIDS to the world. In 1996, The Royal Pharmaceutical Society, aided by Mann, successfully prosecuted a poppers retailer at the Crown Court, resulting in the UK-wide ban of poppers under the trade name amyl nitrate. Delivering his compelling evidence to the Court, Mann had not reckoned for the sheer force of vitriol from HIV charities, including the Terrence Higgins Trust, who defiantly defended the right of gay men to continue using poppers, which subsequently continued to be sold as the poppers derivatives butyl and n-isobutyl nitrites. THT Chief Executive, Nick Partridge, told the gay press at the time that poppers were just “a harmless bit of fun.” Now that a scientific study has proven the link between poppers and seroconversion beyond a reasonable doubt, it seems that these same charities have been forced to change tack and channel HIV prevention funds into a gay press campaign warning that “Poppers increase the risk of HIV being passed on when fucking without condoms”. Had they not wasted their energies trying to obstruct the ban in 1996, and instead acted on the weight of evidence and launched this campaign a decade ago, there would undoubtedly be fewer HIV positive gay men today. Tragically, this is but one of many examples of their negligence and mismanagement of the HIV prevention budget that continues to this day: lame, uninspiring HIV ads with double meanings and dubious messages that are clearly contributing to the mainstreaming of the virus and fuelling the barebacking craze; the frittering of resources into two ongoing PEP campaigns at the expense of graphic shock campaigns that, a) depict the true consequences of living with HIV, and, b) express zero tolerance towards those in open pursuit of unsafe sex; the total void of information regarding the latest – and most dangerous – known facilitator of HIV transmission, crystal meth (will it be another 11 years before we finally see some action there too?); and so on… Do we as a community really despise ourselves so much that we refuse to hold these agencies to account for their failures, yet rally to save their precious, misspent prevention funding? Since we condone and enrich stores like Clone Zone and Prowler that openly sell gay snuff movies and HIV enabling highs, perhaps it’s reasonable to conclude that we have the HIV agencies we deserve…

  6. I have just been onto the http://www.manhunt.net web site and was appalled to see two different PEP campaigns running simultaneously; one by GMFA, the other by the THT. Can Matthew Hodson of the GMFA, or a THT exec. for that matter, please justify the squandering and abuse of our scarce HIV prevention funds in this way? Or is this something for The Charity Commission to probe?I am constantly asked if I “f*ck raw” by other users on Manhunt, many of whom are no doubt recommending PEP as a “quickfix” to those they do hook up with. Afterall, PEP is being being rammed down Manhunt users’ throats and sending out the subliminal message that it’s now OK to f*ck raw because help is available from your local GP! May I remind anyone contemplating having unsafe sex in this context, and using PEP as a “quick fix”, that they will be exposing themselves to the same, debilitating and often cancerous side effects and irreversible damage to their immune systems that AIDS drugs inflict on HIV victims, and most probably for nothing as PEP is not even proven to work!The message these charities should be putting out instead should of course be to practice safe sex at all times and how NOT to expose yourself to the risk of accidents occurring, but that would clearly be a little too obvious to the dimwits who decide the nature of these campaigns. Sure, run a PEP ad by all means, but let’s at least have a sense of proportion. Only the pharmaceutical companies can possibly be benefitting from this PEP overkill, or is that the underlying intention?Regarding SCJ’s post, for accuracy’s sake it was the THT – along with the GMFA – who aggressively ganged up against Cass Mann of Positively Healthy in 1996. Mann was only trying to provide evidence against the sale of poppers on the grounds that they were/are immunosuppressive. Unbelievable as it may sound, it was these two agencies who fought tooth and nail in court for the right for all gay men – presumably themselves included – to continue to put themselves at high risk of HIV infection via the continued availability of poppers. One of the reasons this story was not given proper or fair coverage in the gay press at the time was that the UK’s largest poppers factory – Phlogiston Laboratories based in Wales – was owned by the then owners of The Pink Paper and Boyz…If you are wondering how two self-proclaimed “gay men’s health charities” could resort to such depths, think again. Only a year ago, the THT and GMFA jointly advised Gaydar UK AGAINST running banners on their site that would have warned Gaydar’s 1 million members about the extreme dangers that users of crystal meth are exposed to. Accordingly to the know-it-alls at the THT and GMFA, crystal meth does NOT pose a problem to gay men in the UK (try telling that to the many men who have caught HIV while under the drug’s influence, and all those who died in 2007 as a result of their crystal meth addiction!).The founders of the Life or Meth web site went to Gaydar HQ last February to fight the clearcut case for Gaydar to take action to inform and educate memmbers who unwittingly found themselves introduced by other members to crystal meth and other hard drugs, particularly by hustlers using the commercial section (ironically, this was one day before one of Gaydar’s founders committed suicide after consuming a large quantity of drugs). There they found themselves up against spineless and irresponsible representatives from the THT and GMFA, who systematically misrepresented the facts and distorted the truth in their despicable efforts to try to convince Gaydar not to act in their members’ interests. The full story can be found at this link:In the end, Gaydar saw sense and announced that it would launch online crystal meth banners which would click through to an A/Z drugs web site that THT and GMFA agreed to formulate, and for which these charities received funding from the UK government. THT and GMFA agreed to have this A/Z drugs information and awareness site up and running by last summer, but to this date Gaydar have heard nothing more from them on the subject, and as a result their own online crystal meth banners are on hold.As THT and GMFA continue to do things their way, ignoring the facts and their responsibility and duty to protect the health of gay men in the UK as they instead pursue their own agenda and policies, more and more gay men are seroconverting. Today’s record conversion rate is one set of figures neither the THT or the GMFA can trivialise or distort for their own ends.Now, to anyone who claims these “charities” work for the benefit of the community and not out of self-interet, you are speaking out of yourbacksides. The above facts speak for themselves. In my humble view, THT and GMFA are partners in crime.

  7. I feel so sorry for the young gay kids of today. They get zero safe sex/HIV information in the schools, and then gay youngsters are let down again, this time by the HIV agencies funded to protect them, and the gay press who promote a meaningless and cheap association around gay sex in the magazines and free handouts. Now they have the scourge of stores like Prowler, who have made barebacking videos acceptable, to navigate. No wonder more and more young gays today are catching HIV. Surely the HIV agencies, the gay press, EVERYONE should be working together to ensure that the most vulnerable and naive members of our community are properly educated about safe sex and made aware about the risks involved in contracting HIV? Gay teens today have no idea of the perils and pitfalls of HIV due to our indifference in allowing HIV to be regarded as a normal, treatable condition, like diabetes. We are betraying an entire generation of gay men.

  8. Two PEP campaigns? Shock! Horror! Its better than NO PEP campaigns…

  9. William - Dublin 11 Jan 2008, 8:37am

    Sometimes I think thee are more people advertising their cheap “dating” sites, or religious nuts screaming from their self appointed pulpits, than real gay people expressing their opinions on the articles.Bruce, your staggering skill of cutting and pasting not withstanding, no one in their right mind would use a vulgar “site” advertised in this way.I one thought these forums had a website admin. Clearly not.

  10. I might have more sympathy for the likes of GMFA and THT if they actualy put the HIV budget to good use. If less money means seeing less of their glamorized AIDS ads and those equally ghastly PEP ads then that can only be a good thing. I would rather have no ads then such ads that are more likely to increase unsafe sexual behaviour than discourage it.

  11. Yes William. But when you link to that shambolic Life of Meth site which carries quotes from Mathias Rath – a man who is probably doing more harm than good in the war against HIV then I have very little sympathy with your arguement.PEP is an intervention and everyone who bleats that it is not proven is decidedly ignorant because if it was unproven then I do not really think that the NHS would have made it a standard intervention to healthcare staff who suffer needle stick injuries nor the Police giving it to people who have been raped.You would rather have no ads then. Great logic. How many Gay men would you condemn to a life of living with HIV when it could be prevented. People, such as yourself, actually show how lucky we are to have organisations that do not judge us at every opportunity…

  12. I think the point that William is clearly making is not that PEP is being advertised to the gay community, but that there are two near identical campaigns being funded by two organisations and running simultaneously. This is a very valid point to make in the absence of the graphic campaigns that are needed now capable of impacting on our community. I thank the graphic AIDS campaigns of the 1990’s for my negative status today. They scared me into submission, and because of them I have never been able to contemplate unsafe sex. There may be some validity in not wanting to stigmatise HIV individuals, but when will we see campaigns that stigmatise barebacking and the consequences of ingesting noxious AIDS drugs that can cause complications as serious as AIDS itself?

  13. Speaking as an ‘hiv individual’ I would rather be stigmatised than untold numbers of people risk exposure to life threatening practicess and potentially contract HIV for want of a bit of hard hitting health education.I’m old enough and ugly enough to understand the situation I am in without the need for everyone to pussy foot around me worrying about my feelings while others become infected because people don’t want to hurt my feeling.There should not be a young person in this country who engages in any sort of sexual relations without being fully aware of the dangerous of and methods whereby HIV is transmitted.

  14. Will, I think William placed his cards, clearly, on the table with the following statement:”I would rather have no ads then such ads that are more likely to increase unsafe sexual behaviour than discourage it.” Again a claim that is being made without any evidence to back it up and also the same rhetoric that was used to prevent PEP being promoted to gay men since day one! If William would like to share relaiable and verifiable research that proves that PEP availability leads to a greater incidence of unprotercted sex then by all means share it with us!

  15. In response to the poster evidently suffering from a good dose of bovine virus, the proof that PEP is being abused and is leading to a greater incidence of unsafe sex was contained in a widely published report last year (Gay Dot Com etc.) that found that of 185 people prescribed PEP at St. Mary’s hospital in London between June 2005 and June 2006, 80% were for gay men, nearly half of who had had unprotected passive anal sex, mostly in casual situations. 8% of the PEP prescribed was for gays who had been prescribed PEP previously, indicating a sizeable subgroup who are repeatedly trying to manage high-risk sex at the NHS’s expense. Furthermore, a study of repeat PEP users at the Mortimer Market and St Thomas’s STD clinics in London and Brighton, compared with one-off users, were found to be nearly four times as likely to have had further condom-less sex in the three months before requesting PEP and in the three months after and with twice as many partners, including known positive partners. None of the one-offs had sex with a known positive partner in the three months after PEP whereas 38% of repeat prescribers did. Tell me, BSE, now that the evidence is presented to you, try explaining the logic of two PEP campaigns running simultaneously on identical gay media? Thank goodness for Life Or Meth for shining light on such scandals. Perhaps too much light for some…

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