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The Lancet attacks UK’s ‘extraordinary failure’ on tackling HIV

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  1. The real failure is with GPs, sexual health clinics, and hospitals for failing to consider and test for HIV even when people present with symptoms and illnesses indicative of HIV infection.

    It’s also shocking that about 40% of gay men in the UK have never had an HIV test. About 25%-33% of all HIV infections in gay men are undiagnosed. This has a lot to do with the stigma, blame and fear that so many gay men attach to HIV. Indeed, the gay men most likely to have prejudiced views about HIV are not only likely to be untested, but also take a lot of sexual health risks.

    Undiagnosed HIV is the underlying reason why people still die from the infection in this country.

    And people with undiagnosed HIV are the reason the epidemic is still spreading.

    Bear this in mind the next time you have sex with someone who assures you that they’re HIV-negative.

    And if you’re in the habit of rejecting potential partners with HIV, think again. HIV treatment significantly reduces the risk of HIV transmission. Infections originating in people taking successful HIV treatment are few and far between. People taking HIV treatment are some of the safest people you can have sex with.

  2. Brian Burton 29 May 2009, 3:35pm

    small wonder that HIV is rife in the UK! Kids from the cradle to maturity have sex rammed down their throats 24 hours a day. So who is at fault for the HIV runnaway? I have spoken to friends etc, and they just shrug it off and carry on doing nothing about safe sex. The Lancet report is worrying to say the least.

  3. As I said in a recent thread, the only way people will start reacting and being careful again is when people start dying.

  4. There is a great article in the latest Time Out about how the failure of HIV prevention campaigns by THT and GMFA in recent years have led to many younger men to catch HIV through ignorance. The article points out that HIV campaigns today are about how to minimise risk instead of encouraging safe sex at all times, with pathetic slogans like “Cum Outside” and “Shoot Like a Porn Star Over my Back!”

    However, a look through the gay press today reveals there are no longer any HIV prevention campaigns to speak of. Maybe Pink Paper would like to do some investigative reporting for a change rather than obligingly reprint the HIV charity’s press releases verbatim and ask THT why it is using the Pan-London HIV Prevention Programme funding it was awarded last year to promote:

    i) the unproven post-exposure HIV treatment PEP,
    ii) THT’s Drug F*cked web site which seems to condone and encourage drug use
    iii) and an advertisement for THT’s own HIV support services that has appeared in the last couple of issues of Positive Nation?

    How are any of these campaigns that are being funded from specifically designated HIV prevention funds supposed to *prevent* the further spread of HIV/Aids? This public money was given to THT to exclusively provide HIV prevention campaigns until 2011, but it is being abused and squandered in a way that makes most “flipping” MPs appear saintly.

    The Time Out article reiterates the ground level consensus that we need harder-hitting, truthful campaigns about HIV/Aids if they are to have any impact, particularly on the younger generation of gay men (the latest Puffta sex survey reveals that 53% of its 12-19 year old members no longer always practice safe sex!!). However, it would appear that those who wield the HIV prevention budgets today and who have the final say are going out of their way to encourage the spread of the virus by ensuring that those most vulnerable and at risk are deprived of the vital debilitating facts about HIV/Aids from which to make fully informed decisions about the kind of sex they have.

    Could this have anything to do with the fact that THT makes more of its income providing services to those infected with the disease, and is partly funded by the likes of GlaxoSmithKline which has a vested interest in selling as many of its Aids drugs as possible to appease its shareholders?

    Please Pink Paper, our community’s health is approaching dire proportions. Let’s have an open and honest debate about why HIV prevention has failed our community, name and shame the organisations that have let us down so badly, and demand change. It is no longer acceptable to look the other way and pretend that this elehant in the room does not exist!

  5. Robert, ex-pat Brit 30 May 2009, 2:55pm

    Believe me, if this pandemic had originated in the straight community and had become their issue, there would probably be an entirely different attitude by the government. Maybe there might have been a cure already.

  6. “serious epidemiological issue”

    Sounds like a good reason for banning gay sex!

  7. “serious epidemiological issue”

    Sounds like a good reason for banning gay sex.


  8. Robert, ex-pat Brit: I think your comment is unfair and homocentric. There are many people, ranging from drug users, haemophiliacs and half of Africa suffering from HIV/AIDS related infections. As usual, gay men with chips on their shoulders churn out the victim role, as if they were the only people suffering. HIV/AIDS is something *everyone* should worry about, and governments and private companies are investing billions in finding ways of defeating it. The biggest killers worldwide are still heart disease and cancer, by a long chalk, but AIDS receives proportionally WAY more research funding. Get off your persecution complex and appreciate what is being done. Had it not been for the progress made over the last 30 years, many, many more people would now be six foot under.

  9. I totally agree with Peter. For example, Lisa powers has now been employed by THT for over 15years. How much is her salary, and in this day and age, who works for the same company for 15 years?…and why? Like, mp’s Lisa is on the HIV gravy train, along with many others at THT. Considering that THT has had nearly all of the funding from government and drug companies over the last 10years, the failure of HIV prevention rests solely with them. The THT gravy train must be stopped, the expenses the enormous salaries they pay themselves, and they constant trips all over the world to HIV conferences that are all paid for by you and I through our taxes!!

  10. James, THT is totally unaccountable for how it spends our money. If you download the latest year end report (, you will see that the charity took in over £15 million in handouts and from flogging Tracey Emin paintings with most of that money being spent on staff salaries and no doubt gold-plated pensions, bonuses and perks, and sod all on effective HIV prevention campaigns. A number of THT staffers are on six-figure salaries – rewards for abject failure. Heaven only knows what their New Labour crony-in-chief, Nick Partridge, commands for his nigh on 20 years at the helm; during which time he has presided over the near decimation of our community’s sexual health while at the same time taking funding from the likes of GlaxoSmithKline whose vested interest it is to ensure HIV rates remain high.

    It is totally shaming that our community turns the other cheek as THT fiddles and pilfers and shamelessly flogs unproven pharmaceutical toxins like PEP for GSK and Abbot Laboratories at the expense of proper HIV prevention campaigns. Albert Einstein once said that great evil is only possible by good men who look the other way and say nothing. Well, it is high time that our community took responsibility for itself and stood up to the fanatical PC zealots and bully boys of THT and GMFA who attempt to shout down and discredit all calls for harder-hitting HIV prevention. Last year over 80 per cent of Pink Paper readers voted for such campaigns, yet the likes of experts such as Dr. Chris Jessen are constantly discredited by the HIV careerists who have hijacked gay men’s sexual health and insist that they know best. Well, just look where 25 years of the THT has got us?

    Can anyone really stomach the thought of another 25 years of “HIV prevention” tactics like, Play Zone, PEP, Drugf*cked and campaigns with provocative slogans like Cum Outside and THIVK You May Have HIV? If so then our community is heading for one huge train wreck!

  11. The THT are the largest organiser of LGBT youth groups in the UK real direct intervention with young men at risk.

    The other prevention work is tested and worked out with academics and the CHAPS conference each year provides space for open debate.

    The THT staff are paid the going rate like equivalent charities like any big organisation there are some people with grudges against them it is sad that minority is coming to the for here. My guess is they keep staff because they are dedicated and doing good work.

    The best hope for prevention is early diagnosis and treatment we need the 40% of untested gay men to test, see to get used to the fact HIV is no longer fatal in the developed world I’m positive 25 years and now I’m on four pills a day!

    Finally it is worth adding gay men are now in the minority most of the UK population living with HIV are hetrosexual africans as anyone visiting an immunoly department will notice.

  12. The bf coming home distracted me hence the typos sorry: Corrected paragraphs below.

    The best hope for prevention is early diagnosis and treatment we need the 40% of untested gay men to test, then to get used to the fact HIV is no longer fatal in the developed world I’m positive 25 years and now I’m on four pills a day!

    Finally it is worth adding gay men are now in the minority most of the UK population living with HIV are hetrosexual africans as anyone visiting an immunology department will notice.

  13. Bloke, as someone who attended last year’s CHAPS conference, I witnessed with my own eyes a speaker from BOYZ magazine who was invited along to argue the case for harder hitting campaigns. Throughout his well articulated speech he was constantly heckled and jeered at by the (as Peter describes) bully boys from the THT and the GMFA, and the poor guy left the stage visibly shaken.
    Bloke, the statistics and hard evidence simply do not back up your claims. The THT is not known as The Tesco Higgins Trust for nothing, you know? Sure, at one time it could be said to have the community’s interests at heart, but since the 1990s it has been taken over by an arrogant, greedy, self-serving elite who use political correctness as their stick with which to beat all those who question their frankly insane policies and procedures into submission.
    But the fault lies with the failure of the rest of us to apprehend what is in front of our very noses each time we pick up a gay magazine carrying their press releases and advertisements which seem designed specifically to ENCOURAGE risky sexual behaviour, not prevent it. Thanks to its aggressive promtion in the gay press, PEP is now being used by more and more men as a quick fix for premeditated risky sex because the PEP ads specifically spell out its use following “unsafe sex” as well as for accidental exposure. This is obscene, though not as obscene as HIV prevention funding being diverted to promoting THT’s range of services aimed at those who are already HIV-positive. No wonder THT is so keen for all of us to get tested; the more services they can flog, the more funding they can claim from the taxpayer!! They refuse to tell us straight up to respect each other and play safe at all times because that conflicts with their business plan which is based upon future HIV targets being achieved, for which they go cup in hand to the Government for more funding.
    It is frankly immoral and scandalous that a corporate charity that thrives on the further spread of HIV/Aids is being entrusted by the NHS to provide London’s HIV prevention initiatives for the next several years. Can’t anyone else see that it is not in the THT’s interests to reduce the spread of the virus? Since the mid-1990s there has been a direct conflict of interests that the THT will not declare because it has become greedy, bloated and unaccountable, and our community has paid a tragic price for allowing them to get away with it for so long.
    This is probably the most serious issue confronting the welfare of gay men today, and it is frankly fantastic to finally see high-profile people like Paul Burstone and Doctor Christopher Janssen speaking out against the systemic destruction of our collective sexual health. The HIV sector needs a radical overhaul and clear-out of prehistoric staff who see HIV as a career first and foremost and who refuse to budge and make way for an enlightened and caring approach.

  14. <>

    Thanks Dr. Kez for putting Bloke straight on his delusion that CHAPS provides a forum for open debate! And I would point out that the very fact that THT uses square, obtuse academics such as SIGMA to map out its HIV prevention strategies explains why they have got it all so wrong. They need to be speaking to professional, impassioned, empathetic frontline people like Dr. Chris and the heroes and heroines in the STI clinics who have to deal with the fallout from ill-thought out HIV/Aids campaigns, such as GMFA’s latest masterpiece “From The Bottom To The Top”. It is a common sense approach we need, and common sense is telling most of us that something is badly wrong when the likes of THT/GMFA look to the head and not the heart to remedy the HIV/Aids scourge. Leave academia out of it!!

  15. “Finally it is worth adding gay men are now in the minority most of the UK population living with HIV are hetrosexual africans as anyone visiting an immunoly department will notice.”

    Um, so that makes it OK then? Never mind that over one-third of gay men make up the total of all new HIV transmissions, despite comprising 5% of the total population? Never mind that the conversion rate has doubled in the last ten years alone? Because African immigrants are coming to the UK for treatment and swamping our clinics and outnumbering indigenous gay men makes it all OK then and lets THT off the hook for their systemic decimation of once healthy and vital gay men? I stand corrected…

  16. Brian Burton 2 Jun 2009, 3:29pm

    HIV/Aids was called the ‘Gay Disease’ in the 80s when it began to be taken seriousley. Condoms are ‘out-lawed’ by the roman catholic church and since there are millions of catholics world wide. I can’t see much progress being made.

  17. THT and GMFA base their campaigns on the work of a few academics coming under the SIGMA umbrella. Does the work of Sigma (and therefore CHAPS) get academic scrutiny? My understanding is that it is not peer reviewed and other academics in the health promotion field are furious that it receives all the HIV funding for work based on self-selection of interviewees and a total lack of Department of Health and fellow academics’ review. The current HIV infection rates are a scandal. This one is going to blow-up in New Labour’s face!

  18. Much of Sigma’s research is peer-reviewed as can be seen from the list of publications in medical journals.

    HIV rates have not sky-rocketed under Labour. In fact, HIV incidence, that’s the number of new infection each year, has remained remarkably constant. That’s despite a massive increase in the pool of people with HIV thanks to the success of HIV treatment.

    HIV diagnoses have gone up. The most important thing you can do if you have HIV is get diagnosed and treated. It will save youe life and reduce your infectiousness.

    A lot of posts on here have expressed nostalgia for HIV preventions campaigns from the 1980s. There was no golden age of HIV prevention. Even when ‘hard-hitting’ campaigns were being used and approximately a thousand gay men a year dying each year because of AIDS, there were still 1,500 new infections amongst gay men each year and at least a third of gay men reported unprotected sex each year.

    The fact that gay men are no longer dying of AIDS in large numbers is something to be thankful about. Thank God that HIV is less frightening than it used to be. The world of HIV has changed dramatically since the 1980s, and it’s changed for the better. HIV prevention has to respond to these changes, the realities of the lives people live, the real drivers of HIV risk, and avoid, no matter how tempting it may seem, a nostalgia for apparent successes in the past.

  19. Oh dear PL, I suggest you learn the difference between diagnoses and incidence. The number of new HIV diagnoses has doubled. Many of these were contracted some time ago or abroad. But the number of new infections contracted each year.

    It always shocks and saddens me that so many people who post on comment boards seem to regret the fact that HIV treatment has come along and has the capacity to save lives. Once again, I say thank God. And let’s design HIV prevention initiatives that match the reality of HIV today and why people take sexual health risks.

    Incidently, there’s not one shred of evidence from peer-reviewed studies that fear-based health promotion intervention campaigns make any long-lasting difference to people’s risk behaviours – you’d know this is you’d done any real reading on this subject.

    And any way, if you’d bothered reading the article, you’d have seen that The Lancet was commenting on undiagnosed HIV infections, not attacking current approaches to HIV prevention.

    Tackling undiagnosed HIV infections has the potential to make a huge impact on the HIV epidemic both here and internationally.

    But then, given that I base my opinion on reading peer reviewed research everyday, 18 painful years of first hand experience of living with HIV, rather than chats down the pub, you probably don’t want to know…

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