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Comment: HIV policy has collapsed and gay men will not escape the legacy

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  1. “Regardless of whether it is appropriate or not, the failure to curb HIV infections is increasingly being dumped at the trust’s door.”

    That would be Cameron’s Big Society, would it?

    1. It’s never the fault of the people having the unprotected sex.
      Every time one of these stories comes up people here blame everyone else (Government, Terrence Higgins trust, etc)
      Where’s the blame for the actual cause?

      1. The cause?

        As in when we used to only have confusing, ineffectual and often incentivising HIV campaigns, you mean?

        Or today when we have none at all?

  2. Vernal Scott 11 Mar 2013, 11:16am

    Gay men need to help themselves. On one hand, we go on about rising HIV stats, and on the other, we promote barebaking DVDs and the like. We have to be consistent if we’re serious about this issue. It’s not up to the THT. We must be the cure we are seeking and take personal responsibility by stopping risky behaviour and making our bodies safer sex zones. Once again, bareback sex is stupid sex. It has nothing to do with freedom; it’s all about low self-esteem and selfish stupidity. Stop it!

    1. But Vernon, from where do gay men take their lead in the minefield that is safer sex if it isn’t up to the funded trustees of our sexual health to guide us responsibly and effectively?

      How are impressionable and vulnerable gay men supposed to behave responsibly if they keep receiving so many mixed and confusing messages from an HIV prevention sector that actively colludes with the sex industry, that refuses to enter into a debate about its methods with gay men themselves, and whose strategy around HIV prevention is now solely focused on reinforcing testing above all above initiatives and strategies?

      Or am I missing something here?

      1. GulliverUK 11 Mar 2013, 5:39pm

        You are missing something. They will have sex whether you say they should or not. The positive messages for their physical well-being must go hand-in-hand with their mental health, they must be free to express and act on their sexuality, whilst feeling an included part of the society, fully equal, with a future and no reason to turn to despair, excessive drinking and drugs. Risky behavior is tied to their feelings of self-worth and the hatred from organisations like the Catholic church and others damage that self-worth. You have to care about the society you live in, feel that it cares about YOU, before you acknowledge the need to protect and preserve yourself. There can be a gripping fatalism brought about by attitudes in society that damages self-worth and means a person may not care too much, because they don’t see a long, extended, future in their lives.

        Besides, gay and straight, many young people drink too much, take drugs, engage in unprotected sex, etc.

        1. Your post reads like a typical PC/sensitivity training manual that seeks to maintain the “victim” in his victim hood.

          Give me the hard facts that deter me from wanting to engage in risky behaviours and which empower me to take responsibility for my health and to value and respect the well being of those I partner with every time, ta very much!

          1. GulliverUK 12 Mar 2013, 8:43pm

            “Your post reads like a typical PC/sensitivity training manual”

            And yours reads like anything but. Shame on you for being so judgmental. :(

          2. Why thank you, GulliverUK.

            I will take that as a compliment, albeit an inverted one. :)

  3. Section 28 damaged the fight against HIV by causing local councils to drop funding for HIV prevention programmes – in case they were seen to be promoting homosexuality. The venomous Christian Institute even tool Glasgow council to court as it was funding an HIV charity to claim it was promoting homosexuality.

    The THT lost a lot of credibility by constantly opposing, even recently, any removal of the ban on blood donations from LBGT, and it was very wrong on that. I have little faith in an organisation which doesn’t understand science and statistics.

    If you give people hope they will be treated as equals, that they are not second-class, that they have a future and purpose in life, it will limit the fatalistic future some young people see, and full equality is one tool in that, together with teaching positively about relationships and sex education, for all, at school. We don’t have full equality, we’re battling against dark right-wing and religious forces, still today ….

    1. … which damages self-esteem and feelings of self-worth required to take encourage people there is a future and a need to take responsible self-preservation methods. Stigma is sometimes strong and makes people feel devalued and will interfere with the messages about protection and safe sex.

      Just look at the hateful, harmful, denomising messages in the equal marriage debate – which must be causing anxiety, fear, depression and be extremely damaging to gay peoples’ feelings of self-esteem.

      The economics costs are huge – much, much more needs to be done to raise the self-esteem of young LGBT, to foster tolerance and acceptance, to show there is a bright future, to put back the funding lost, and increase it, to outlaw some of the intolerant homophobic messages printed in the newspapers, to make sure condoms are free in all gay meeting places, and frankly ALL heterosexual meeting places, and to ensure medical research is properly funded.

  4. There is no strategic vision when it comes to HIV & Sexual Heath here in the UK as a whole.

    There is no National Strategy, no real focus to bear down on HIV incidence & THT have been left “holding the baby” with one hand tied behind it’s back.

    The devolved administrations have their own Public Health Spending plans, yet HIV does not respect these borders.

    Budgets are often rolled over (as in the case of the Pan London HIV Programme) with no review taking place, there is duplication of work streams as charities all fight for survival.

    The Gov needs to provide an overarching strategy, which in my view must include investment upfront – more spending on prevention will reap savings in the future treatment cost. bill

    The UK needs a National TV, Radio & large, media advertising campaign not for just gay men, but everyone who is sexually active.

    The charitable sector is good at local initiatives, this is what they now need to focus on with Local Authorities & other stakeholders.

    1. Some good ideas here, W6, but please explain, specifically, why you think that THT has been unable to do a much better job at HIV-prevention amongst gay men because, as you say, it has always had “one hand tied behind it’s back”.

      What is it that you believe excuses THT’s record at having failed to stem many more infections than they have?

      1. “why you think that THT has been unable to do a much better job at HIV-prevention amongst gay men” – I don’t think this is the case; we know from the HPA modelling studies that without the various campaigns to reinforce condom use in the last 10 yrs, it is estimated that there would be double the number of +ve MSM. This can be debated, but I am of the opinion that the majority of MSM practice safer sex; it is the 80/20 Pareto Principle – 80% of all new infections in the UK are estimated to come from 20% of those who have undiagnosed HIV (by default not using condoms consistently).

        THT in my view have become “risk adverse” when it comes to prevention strategies, it seems the only messages that the funding agencies are comfortable with are those of consistent condom use & increased testing amongst MSM – there is no talk of “sex in the real world” & harm reduction; we need to have properly targeted interventions that deal with real issues that many MSM face.

        1. As far as “excuses” go – we all probably assume that THT is given public money & they can spend it how they like; this is not the case. In the last 10 yrs or so, contracts for prevention work are commissioned by Strategic Health Authorities / PCT’s – often the commissioning arrangements have been very poor, with no focus on the desired outcomes. We know that the Pan London HIV Prevention Project has been a disaster, & there has been many £ wasted in bureaucracy. Many will assume that THT have been the only beneficiaries of funds for HIV prevention in London, this is incorrect – up to 6 other charities are involved & the whole thing has never worked well & delivered

          I am very sure that this situation is not confined to London – the way prevention is planned, organised & implemented is at best inefficient & ineffective. Short run contracts with no joined up thinking has resulted in a situation where the money available is diluted by duplication & incoherence at the commissioning level.

          1. The commissioning arrangements seem devoid of any input from those that the prevention interventions are designed to be aimed at – my understanding is that contracts are drawn up in an environment devoid of any understanding of the issues faced by gay men, I am yet to understand how gay men have been represented by the organisations developing prevention strategies. The whole funding & commissioning intentions must be seriously looked at & hopefully this will happen as the Local Authorities become accountable for HIV / Sexual Health.

            My concern here is one of quality v price, whilst many are unhappy with the likes of THT will Virgin Healthcare, Serco or any other “qualified provider” really come up with the goods; this is where commissioners must set good quality standards & actually monitor the contracts & make sure they are delivering!

          2. Thank you for a response, W6. However, you haven’t answered my question as to why it is that THT has not done far better regardless of funds given and so forth.

            I have read through all the comments that people have placed here since I posted yesterday, and have been disappointed to find amongst them a denial that gay men use hard drugs. I have been disappointed to see even a suggestion that the solution is simply to abstain from anal sex!

            Only the very rare nutcase will have unsafe sex, i.e. sex during which HIV and other STDs could be transmitted, while fully sober and in full possession of his faculties.

            We know however that many are being infected, which means that many are having unsafe sex, which means, therefore, that they are having sex when they are NOT fully sober and when they are NOT in full possession of their faculties. Sexual pleasure, combined with the uninhibiting effects of drugs and alcohol, easily cause one’s best intentions to be abandoned.

          3. So it’s the gay leisure-culture that MUST be targeted.

            Who is providing that gay leisure-culture?

            Answer: a wide variety of providers who profit from the promotion of fantasy-nights of heady abandon.

            You’ve seen the ads. They’re in all the gay mags.

            They exert a powerful and almost irresistable allure.

            And so the gay men turn up, hand over wads of cash to enter the establishments, hand over wads of cash to get pissed and “party!”, and also, so statistics have told us, hand over wads of cash for certain drugs (even though they may not be sold on the premises).

            The party begins, the shirts come off, and infections occur in the backrooms, or in woods on the way home early in the morning, or when some other clubber is taken home for the night.

            The infections generally do not occur anywhere else or at any other time.

          4. “…this is where commissioners must set good quality standards & actually monitor the contracts & make sure they are delivering!”

            Really, W6?

            The same commissioners who have been dictating to THT, GMFA et al all these years how to run sexual health campaigns and education programmes?

            The same commissioners who also set the standards under which the NHS has come to resemble a third world morgue?

            Why do you place more faith in these shadowy technocrats than in the ability of gay men to decide what is best for us?

            Or are you too integrated into the system itself that you cannot comprehend nor perceive how it is these faceless commissioners – aided and abetted by a hands-outstretched HIV sector – are to blame not only for record rates of HIV in the gay community, but record rates of every venereal disease going within the mainstream community too?!

          5. I think as Matthew from GMFA alludes to later in the comment page – THT have responsibility for “mass media campaigns” in England & have probably been a bit slow to harness new media such as Facebook & Twitter; there is a disconnect with gay men, which is also I believe a branding issue – many gay men feel “sold down the river” because THT have moved with the times & become a National HIV & Sexual Health Charity for all.

            I get what you are saying about the links with drug & alcohol use; being a liberal minded individual I would not like to see the likes of THT getting involved with how gay men choose to spend either their money or leisure time on; that for me is way over the mark.

            One of the ways THT could re-engage with gay men is to become more involved through outreach in gay venues, but as I note from this very thread there are those who criticise this as being “in bed” with such venues, so it really is a very difficult balancing act in my view.

          6. @ Samuel
            I have often been critical about the way prevention campaigns have been commissioned by PCT’s – you only have to look at the Pan London Programme to see what a disaster that has been, & as we learn GMFA have lost some of their funding because the Pan London Commissioners have pulled the plug on some activities. I am sure you are rubbing your hands in glee, just like the rest of the rotten Tory boys!

            It is all very well having a “blue sky thinking approach” wanting to go back to zero funding from the tax payer, but who is going to provide the £ to cover the shortfall? You and many other gay men are certainly not prepared to put your hand in your pocket, so I have to ask what your solution would be? Do you not think HIV services should receive Gov funding at all?

        2. I don’t know about THT becoming “risk adverse”, W6.

          Truth adverse, certainly.

  5. I agree with Mr. Home that it is a serious problem how little space HIV occupies in media discourse about health. This conspicuous absence implies that HIV a “gay problem” or, rather, not something that the heterosexual majority needs to think or talk about. This seems to have a powerful effect on MSM’s who are not completely comfortable in their skin, so to speak. I’ve had to cajole some of my younger friends into simply talking about the existence and/or spread of the virus. This has been especially hard for those who like to avoid the “scene” because they also tend to ignore messages and publications aimed at gay men. I’ve even heard: “I don’t like talking about this where people can hear”. If you can’t bear talking about it in general, how likely are you to get tested? Right now, I think it’s up to us to have the face-to-face conversation with our friends, open up the issue, and nudge them in the direction of the nearest clinic to get tested.

  6. This is an exceptionally perceptive piece of writing. Well done, Stuart Home!

    I appreciate your having successfully shown in this article WHY it is that successive governments have preferred to almost completely allot the task of HIV-prevention amongst gay men to the Terrence Higgins Trust, that is that successive governments have been wary of battling continuing high HIV infection rates amongst gay men out of fear of being seen as homophobic. And so they have entirely trusted the matter to the THT.

    But the THT, as I have repeatedly said over the last five or so years, has been unprepared to stand up against the gay sex industries which glamorise gay sex and lure gay men into late nights of drug- and drink-fulled hedonistic abandon in which, of course, every safe-sex intention is forgotten in the delicious pleasure of the moment.

    THT thinks it prudent to try and prevent HIV by appeasing gay men’s worst desires and the unscrupulous money-hungry gay sex industries.

    1. Not only has the THT refused to stand up against the sleazification of gay culture:- it has actively climbed into bed with the sex industry by refusing to express a stance on bareback videos, promoting and endorsing sex-on-site premises including those where confirm use us actively discouraged (re: Play Pit), and even poured thousands of HIV prevention funds into a step-by-step initiation into the extreme sex scene (re: Hardcell.org.uk.

      During this period of promotion, hard/rough sex club nights have risen to the fore accompanied by higher HIV rates.

      THT is as much a part of the problem, not the solution.

      1. For “confirm” read “condom”.

      2. Thank you! You are so right about that. And it is not only the THT …

        I can’t remember who they were, but a few years ago the leaflets changed from “safe sex” to “safeR sex” (being told not to cum up an arse)

        And years ago I wrote to Stonewall to ask their policy on the rising number of bareback porn websites on the internet and its effect on young gay men. Well: they were not interested in looking at it.

        Let’s admit it: as a community we are not behaving responsibly enough and we have allowed a culture of drug taking and unsafe sex parties to become the norm. Now it is with us – a real shame – we could have prevented it, but we didn’t.

        1. It is GMFA who rebranded comdom-less sex utilising the withdrawal method as “safer sex”, and THT followed suit soon after.

          GMFA has also sponsored hardcore club nights with names like Filth, which pretty much indicates how their London-centric policy makers get their weekend kicks.

          You could almost correlate the decline and intransigence of the HIV sector where prevention is concerned with that of the NHS:- but then it is the same government guidelines the THT’s followed to the letter all of these years in return for securing statutory funding.

          Roughly translated, well-intentioned workers within the THT have been bound to government guidelines and dictates yet have readily hoovered public cash to the detriment of those they are funded to serve.

          THT needs to lessen its dependency on government handouts, find creative ways of generating income and get its independence back.

          That’d be a major step forward but will never happen while “Sir” Nick Partridge clings to power.

  7. Isn’t it worrying, and very sad, that while other articles in PinkNews attract involvement and comments in large numbers, sometimes stretching to 100s of comments, anything to do with this very serious disease that continues to stalk the gay male community attracts very few comments.

    It suggests part of the problem: just as people don’t like to talk about their deaths, so people don’t like to talk about the possibility of contracting a very serious disease. They prefer to put their heads in the sand and pretend it doesn’t exist.

    1. I have made this very point several times; it seems that many PN readers are not interested in HIV – equal marriage appears to be the only gig in town at the moment. Debates about HIV always become extremely polarised with THT, GMFA & NAT usually being heavily criticised because it seems fashionable to do so!

      The other aspect I find disappointing is that there is literally no activism coming from gay men about HIV & other sexual health issues – there are so many ways that individuals can get involved to try & change the situation, but in my experience those who shout the loudest on PN are not prepared to actually do anything about the situation.

      We have a great opportunity to try and influence things at a local level when HIV prevention responsibility moves to Local Authorities under their remit for Public Health – how many gay men will write to their MP’s or the newly appointed Directors of Public Health, how many people support NAT or THT in their lobbying of Government?

  8. Interesting article, Stuart, and many good points.

    But I do think the constant emphasis on lack of HIV prevention funding = higher HIV rates is disingenuous.

    Smaller charities than THT, not necessarily here in the UK, have succeeded in stemming and even reversing HIV rates on far smaller budgets.

    Where HIV’s concerned it’s the quality of the message that’s key:- one honest, upfront, properly targeted grassroots campaign that acts as a genuine deterrent will have infinitely more impact than umpteen campaigns that wrap HIV in cotton wool and, in so doing, fail to convey to neg men why a life without HIV is the only option.

    Today the press reports how major pharmas are withdrawing much-needed drugs from Greece as austerity tightens, impacting upon the availabiliy of HIV drugs.

    Is that not in itself – along with the potential hazards associated with their use – a portent we should be highlighting to UK gay men as a reason to avoid contracting HIV in these austere times?

  9. Blaming others except our own community.

    The real fact is that a very large part of the gay community goes out night after night smoking and slamming stuff like Crystal Meth and then have bareback sex orgies.
    And that has become acceptable and the norm due to the fact that professional and amateur bareback porn, bareback hookup sites are all over the internet and seems to be the norm too.

    But we are not allowed to mention that.

    1. You could argue that the minority of gay men you describe have made their bed:- indeed a recent report in the Lancet revealed most such men are knowingly HIV-positive.

      Too late to reach them, maybe, but that does not negate targeting and educating the majority of gay men who are HIV negative with regular impactful messages:- particularly so as to equip those new to the gay scene with the tools they need to navigate safely around issues of safer sex and empower themselves to demand safe sex every time as a non-negotiable option.

      I wonder, had such a common sense strategy always been practised, quite how many such casualties we would hear of today?

      Few and far between I suspect.

      In the absense of empowering messages that endorse personal responsibility, reckless “death wish” behaviour perpetuates a desire in others who also lack self respect and esteem to follow suit,

      We’ve never received any such messages from the THT in years – and millions of our pounds – in funding…

      1. GulliverUK 11 Mar 2013, 4:55pm

        and where did they get that lack of self-esteem and self-worth from ? Homophobia, from the churches, from some in society, and even judgmental gay folk.

        You have to examine why some people take their own lives, or why they don’t feel like their lives are worth caring about, why personal responsibility to themselves and others isn’t foremost on their minds —- apart from the fact that booze and drugs, gay or straight, can make you irresponsible, but does provide Jeremy Kyle with a living.

        1. “Any hint of judgmental behavior and the next words you say won’t be heard, because they’ll be walking away from you…”

          Not that old chestnut, please!

          Where is your evidence for this well perpetuated PC myth, always used as a convenient device by the HIV sector to evade their duty to deter gay men from risky behaviours?

          Sure, those with chronic self-esteem issues might not register with the message, but all evidence proves that shock tactics resonate with most.

          For example the only time San Francisco recorded a decline in HIV rates was between 2001-6 when a series of honest, upfront campaigns ran.

          And governments don’t put graphic messages on fag with the intention of increasing smoking, do they?

          In fact the number of smokers in the UK has halved in 30 years ever since smoking was stigmatised and made socially unacceptable.

          Reckless sex should be being highly stigmatised:- a recent GMFA survey revealed bareback porn as a main influencing factor for unsafe sex.

          1. GulliverUK 11 Mar 2013, 5:47pm

            My experience comes from being young and gay, and growing up to be wise, not that I had any idea I would like this long.

            Shock tactics don’t work, they’ll turn people off because they get shocking homophobia every day, and this will just seem like more judgmentalism.

            We have particular problems with drink, drugs and smoking in our community – much of it the result of past historic homophobic laws, some of which are still here today, which causes stress and anxiety and depression, and leads to an exaggerated desire to explore — when you are old enough to have sex, and an increased use of alcohol, etc.

            Scare tactics won’t work now, because there are drugs to maintain life for 20-30 years, it’s not the death sentence it once was. Warning about the dangers of unprotected sex is one thing, outright scaremongering could re-enforce any feelings of fatalism. Do you want to stigmatise young gay men like they do smoking? That is reckless IMO. There are better methods.

          2. “…and where did they get that lack of self-esteem and self-worth from ? Homophobia, from the churches, from some in society, and even judgmental gay folk.”

            And who’re you to brand judgmental those who care enough about the plight many such men face and who look out for other gay men by speaking openly and honestly addressing such issues, GulliverUK?

            Pot, kettle, black?

            Unfortunately it’s a sad fact of the gay identity that those arriving fresh to its scene in the hope of finding solace and solidarity with other gay men often find their insecurities heightened by a culture that emphasises division, competition and often judgemental assessments based solely on appearance, which in fairness you do allude to.

            But let’s not forget the pre-eminent source of our suffering:- that good old punchbag the Church (so long as we are careful not to mention Muslims in the same breath of course…).

            At least it is now blatantly obvious to which mast your balls are firmly nailed to…

          3. GulliverUK 11 Mar 2013, 6:24pm

            Samuel, I know Muslims are your favorite punchbag, but not mine, although most of their leaders are as thick and stupid and homophobic as the Anglican and Catholic ones — perhaps even more so.

            Many people find friendship and companionship on the bar/club scene, sometimes lovers, sometimes their long-term mate. I’ve been to plenty of straight pubs and there is judgmentalism about looks, rivalry between people and their ex’s, etc., just like ANY scene.

            You know … I have trouble even believing you are actually gay, have any experience of the scene, any experience of peoples’ feelings, an ability to express empathy with others, or any idea how to best implement sexual health prevention strategies. You seem to have views from the 50s, and yes, I most certainly do blame churches for most of this — always have — always will. The roots of homophobia in society come from religion, Christianity, Islam, and so on. Even their own followers know and admit that.

          4. “You know … I have trouble even believing you are actually gay, have any experience of the scene, any experience of peoples’ feelings, an ability to express empathy with others, or any idea how to best implement sexual health prevention strategies. You seem to have views from the 50s”

            Very well said GulliverUK – I couldn’t of put it any better myself!

          5. Why even bother dignifying the last two bait and switch postings with a response:- designed as they are to yet again resort to personal invective when they are unable to maintain a debate because the PC line no longer cuts any cloth where the topic of HIV prevention is concerned?

            At least the head of GMFA himself, Matthew Hodson, admits below that HIV campaigns have “not engaged” with gay men over the years.

            Doesn’t that rather blow your entire argument – that gay men have been paying any attention whatsoever to the kind of inoffensive, egg shell campaigns you insist we should be sticking with – out of the water, GulliverUK?

            Once again providing no evidence whatsoever that harder-hitting campaigns turn people off:- GUK being an expert of course, since he professes not to mix in the very higher-risk circles at which HIV ads are targeted.

            Best stop digging your hole much deeper, GUK:- the stench of rank hypocrisy around these parts is becoming too overwhelming…

        2. By your reasoning, GulliverUK, we should be enabling victims of life’s hurdles by Molly-coddling and encouraging them in their victimhood by being dishonest:- similar to how drug addicts are maintained in their addictions by “harm enabling” programmes that teach them slamming and roll-up techniques!

          Yes, a few gay men have issues, but to spare their feelings you are suggesting we tread on egg shells – to the detriment of most of us who have resolved our issues and are mature enough to accept the truth of what HIV is and the consequences of infection.

          But as a heart bleeding liberal you would sooner brand the truth as judgmental and let the problem of mass HIV infection exacerbate rather than deal with the issue.

          In doing so you may be saving a few downtrodden gay men’s feelings, but you damn the rest of us who need a good dose of tough love to wake up to a chronic disease that the HIV sector prefers to remain silent about.

          Disgraceful!

    2. GulliverUK 11 Mar 2013, 4:51pm

      You must move with a different crowd – I don’t know anyone like that. In fact, I don’t know anyone who uses Crystal Meth, or any other drugs, apart from a few puffs of weed.

      Bareback sex with strangers is risky, so is heterosexual sex without condoms whilst booze-fueled or with drugs. A lot of quite judgmental remarks which do nothing to tackle the issue. Giving it the holier-than-thou stuff won’t appeal to younger people, providing them with free condons, lube, etc., and promoting safer-sex as fun, will help. Explaining the benefits of testing — that it’s an opportunity to get vaccinated against other STDs and infections, is the way to encourage people to attend. Talking about getting tested when starting a new relationship helps.

      Any hint of judgmental behavior and the next words you say won’t be heard, because they’ll be walking away from you. I’m not concerned with orgies (it’s called ‘group sex’ btw) as long as people are using protection. Who are we to judge?

      1. “Any hint of judgmental behavior and the next words you say won’t be heard, because they’ll be walking away from you…”

        Not that old chestnut, please!

        Where is your evidence for this well perpetuated PC myth, always used as a convenient device by the HIV sector to evade their duty to deter gay men from risky behaviours?

        Sure, those with chronic self-esteem issues might not register with the message, but all evidence proves that shock tactics resonate with most.

        For example the only time San Francisco recorded a decline in HIV rates was between 2001-6 when a series of honest, upfront campaigns ran.

        And governments don’t put graphic messages on fag with the intention of increasing smoking, do they?

        In fact the number of smokers in the UK has halved in 30 years ever since smoking was stigmatised and made socially unacceptable.

        Reckless sex should be being highly stigmatised:- a recent GMFA survey revealed bareback porn as a main influencing factor for unsafe sex.

      2. “Scare tactics won’t work now, because there are drugs to maintain life for 20-30 years, it’s not the death sentence it once was…”

        HIV is certainly no bed of roses either, GulliverUK, replete as it is with potentially dangerous health hazards and social implications such as stigma, and it is these factors that need to be highlighted and transmitted loud and clear in messages to both educate ignorant gay men such as yourself who believe, or exude the pretence of believing, that HIV is no longer a big deal, while more importantly serving as an effective deterrent for HIV facilitating behaviours.

        HIV affects different people in different ways and no one knows exactly how they will react to infection nor to the myriad treatments that will cumulatively toxify and potentially destroy the body regardless of whether full-blown Aids eventually takes its toll.

        Not exactly rocket science, is it?

        1. I suspect that Gulliver is much more clued up than you are Samuel on all things related to HIV; you have shown your ignorance on the subject many many times, from testing through to treatment – you do not have a clue, so I really do not think you are in a position to lecture Gulliver on the subject matter.

          You should be quite an expert by now given that I have provided a great deal of basic information even you should be able to comprehend, but as has been demonstrated you very rarely read my postings, preferring to hit the red voting icon & move onto the next!

  10. Matthew of GMFA 11 Mar 2013, 5:45pm

    I work in HIV prevention and I agree almost entirely with what Stuart has to say.
    Whilst they do some good work, I believe that THT’s mass media campaigns have failed to engage gay men for many years. I think the task is by no means easy, the patterns that we see, in terms of decreasing condom use and on-going incidence of HIV amongst gay men, are also seen in most other Western countries. Younger gay men have little understanding and no memory of the period before effective treatment. Many older gay men are fatigued by prevention messages. Condom use amongst couples has never been high. Increasing sexualised drug use and the rise of smart phone dating apps make it harder to reach gay men with prevention messages than before.

    1. It’s good of you to raise your head above the parapet and speak out like this, Matthew, even if circumstances have forced you into this position.

      You mention other Western countries experiencing similar rates of HIV infection and lack of condom use:- but they too have followed a similar approach to prevention whereby the safe(r) sex message gradually became diluted over time and ads appearing in mainstream gay media advocating condom-less sex utilising the withdrawal method took their place.

      Can you appreciate how such approaches may at least be partly to blame for the situation we find ourselves in today, with record HIV rates giving the government a pretext to reduce HIV funding?

      After all, if the tax payer isn’t receiving value for money from the HIV prevention budget, why should scant funds continue to be devoted on causes that have no measurable success?

      We need to start over and look to each other to fund our own sexual health campaigns, but devoid of government interference.

  11. Matthew of GMFA 11 Mar 2013, 5:46pm

    …And whilst prevalence increases, the funding for prevention activity decreases each year. In London this last week it was announced that there would be no further funding for GMFA’s websites (the sexual health information site receives over 60,000 visits from Londoners each year, the site which signposts GU services receives more than 200,000 visits, and is the number one source of referrals for many clinics). FS magazine, which provided a solid grounding in sexual health information in a format that was easily accessible, and which appealed in particular to younger gay men, has also been cut. Groupwork, counselling and health trainers are all continuing, but these services are mainly of use to people who recognise that they have a need which they wish to address. The numbers of men who are able to access these services each year is tiny compared to the size of London’s gay community…

  12. Matthew of GMFA 11 Mar 2013, 5:47pm

    They are not of use in raising awareness of HIV, or in motivating people on a community level to protect their health and/or the health of their sexual partners.
    GMFA are committed to using all of the remaining resources that are available to us to reinvigorate the HIV prevention message. In fact, without funding and some of the restrictions that came with it, we hope that we may be able to have a stronger and louder voice than in recent years. Watch this space.
    (Apologies for the long comment).

    1. GulliverUK 11 Mar 2013, 5:55pm

      The most important thing is what Harvey Milk said “You have to give them hope”, and how is THT addressing that problem? Not in your remit, exactly, to fight for equal rights, but young people who feel isolated from society, that society discriminates against them, are told they are worthless by some, stigmatised already by society, with anxiety and depression issues, who might use alcohol and drugs as a crutch, how are you addressing those issues of self-worth? Is that not a key part of getting them to see a long-term future, with a partner, and a need to use that protection to realise that dream? Can you inspire those people to think of their future?

      ps. The other problem is THT issues with the gay blood ban, and what I consider ill-informed rallying against equality on that issue.

    2. @Matthew – “…without funding and some of the restrictions that came with it, we hope that we may be able to have a stronger and louder voice than in recent years.”

      I am pretty certain that a community “call to arms” would result in a vast response if you made a statement of intent that GMFA seriously intends to get tough with tackling record HIV rates.

      You can’t be blind to the fact that most gay men agree that a tougher, more upfront approach to the issue of barebacking and more openness and truth around the potential consequences of HIV infection is called for?

      We have the resources – there are graphic artists galore among us – and with some creativity and goodwill from the gay press we don’t need a budget in the millions to get messages out there which engage with their target audience in ways that deter risky behaviour, and in a non-finger-wagging way!

      Graphic doesn’t have to mean tombstones:- HIV ads can impact in ways that offend no one while still hitting the message home.

      1. ……….if you have access to all these “resources” Samuel why wait for GMFA to take the initiative? Prevention is much more than an ad in the gay press, but you always have had a very simplistic view on all things HIV, never able to grasp the basics let alone the complexities of prevention!

        If push came to shove I wonder exactly how willing you would be to put your hand in your pocket on a regular basis or even give up some of your time to volunteer for GMFA. Even as you write you are placing restrictions on what you consider to be an effective prevention strategy, just like successive Government agencies have done.

        I still wonder what your real motivation is with regard to your obsession with HIV policy & prevention. You claim to be interested in improving the sexual health of gay men, yet you are often the most outspoken, judgemental critic of said gay men & the lifestyle they choose – a very odd state of affairs in my view!

        1. What exactly is your point, W6?

          I knew it could only be a matter of time before you butted in and started stomping your feet and throwing your toys out of the pram.

          I made suggestions to Matthew based on the resources GMFA already has to hand which makes it ideally positioned to consider a call to arms:-

          They have a name that a lot of gay men are still prepared to rally behind:- fully-equipped offices from which to co-ordinate such an effort:- and the necessary contacts required to put such an effort into motion.

          Why do you constantly whine and moan that the many of us who are complaining about the lack of a serious and co-ordinated effort to tackle HIV rates should do it ourselves?

          With what, exactly?!

          We do not have access to the likes of GMFA’s facilities and most of us, at least, hold down full-time jobs to pay our mortgages and bills!

          GMFA are in unique positions to be proactive, so stop trying to twist things like only W6 knows how.

          And get a grip already!

          1. My point is Samuel – you blow with the wind, you are never prepared to “nail your balls to the mast” (to use your fine words), because you don’t have any! You have no consistent argument to put forward in relation to the sexual health of gay men & you are not prepared to get involved at any level – so forgive me if I am sceptical about your motives in your response to Matthew; to me it shouts out “playing to the gallery”!

            I am sure the team at GMFA are very well placed to identify what is going to be the most effective approach going forward – no doubt if their strategy does not meet your scaremongering ideology you will once again revert to your default position which is to discredit what you describe as “PC indoctrinated zealots”. I would of thought you would jump at the chance of getting involved to work with GMFA to influence policy direction – fine words but no action or commitment

            Frankly we should all take your comments posted here with a very large pinch of salt as

          2. Isn’t it now way past your bedtime, pray tell W6?

  13. “Gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men (MSM) continue to be disproportionately affected by the spread of HIV”

    Only because a portion of them refuse to wear condoms.
    It doesn’t matter how much funding there is if people still refuse to have safe sex.

    1. It’s more than just about “refusing to have safe sex”. It’s about state of mind at the time when sex is had. Are those involved sober and in full possession of their best intentions? Or are they, instead, drugged and pissed and thus when sexual pleasure is added to the mix unable to keep to the intentions they had when they ventured out for some fun?

  14. At the heart of this is ‘Education’. THT and others ran a campaign to get proper Sexual Health education into schools. It was legislation, ready, but for the last election and in the “wash” the coalition decided not to place it on statute. NAT is there to influence policy and they are not often mentioned here. THT, GMFA and others are,in the main, service providers tendering for funds to deliver particular projects. They occupy the same space but remain competitors within the market space that is HIV funding. This competition can harm the real partnering that is required in order to lead on issues such as prevention. Service users have become cynical and there is a certain amount of mass fatigue when it comes to the same messages. Innovation is required here. Some sector consolidation. With more emphasis on partnership.

    1. …or a move completely away from government funding and back towards community-based grassroots efforts.

      Which, after all, is how the THT started up:- the period leading up to the 1990s being their most successful where HIV prevention is concerned, and how they are most fondly remembered by those old enough to remember the sterling and impactful work that they accomplished with scant resources.

      There is no reason whatsoever why the HIV sector cannot revert to basics, IF the execs can be persuaded to prise their fingers away from their bloated salaries and generous public sector pension schemes.

      At a time when most of the rest if us are having to make sacrifices and tighten our belts, what efforts are they making to impose less of a financial strain on their respective charities, Matthew not withstanding of course (GMFA being the closest to a ground level grassroots charity we have)?

      1. Thanks for the reply Samuel. I think that if there is a failure then it is more collective than merely what one organisation has or has not done. Many charities have paid staff and to get into deserving and underserving in terms of remuneration is a tangent that will oft bear little fruit nor progress. Thats not to say that I don’t have some sympathy with the central point. Yesterday I read a Guardian story on “Generation Self”. It may provide an oversight of some of the issues any campaign may have. I have argued for a hard hitting campaign to at least be part of the mix of messages. Believing that prevention is better then cure. However my feeling is that this is resisted through fear it may prevent people testing. This also highlights the fundamental issue, we all have a view on how issues should be handled and have yet to find the consensus on the detail.

        1. Hi John, actually it is the consensus of the ordinary gay man on the street that harder-hitting ads are desperately needed:- it is only the woolly mentality of the PC/sensitivity-trained public sector – of which the HIV sector effectively is a part of due to its statutory funding – that campaigns be wrapped up in cotton wool.

          Their staff are trained, no, bullied to jump into PC consensus line/’groupthink’ on this critical issue, which renders individuals too terrified to speak out or question the consensus lest they be attacked for their “betrayal”.

          We have recently seen this disgusting, intimidatory kind of behaviour played out writ large within the NHS thanks to whistle blowers who blew the lid on the wilfully dangerous policies and decision-making that has led to the deaths of hundreds of patients.

          And this Stasi-like, bullying behaviour is rampant within the HIV sector too.

  15. Anybody with an internet connection and half a brain could read up on safe sex. Because the disease is not terminal any more the gay community has adapted a devil may care attitude. I hope a cure is found soon.

    1. Campaigns are about taking the message to the target audience in order to reach as many people as possible, Georgie:- not hiding said message on an obscure web site that only those who are clued up are aware of.

      As Matthew points out:- “these services are mainly of use to people who recognise that they have a need which they wish to address. The numbers of men who are able to access these services each year is tiny compared to the size of London’s gay community…”

      This statement can equally be applied to information secreted online, since it requires awareness that the web site exists and a presumption that everyone at risk will somehow navigate their way towards it, which is never going to happen.

      Whereas if you target your audience where they’re at – ie. ads in the popular press, free literature in meeting places or, as in the US, billboard ads in areas populated by gay people – then you can’t fail to make an impression.

      Well, provided your ad is impactful, of course…

      1. I think you will find it is called a search engine………….if I type in HIV UK I get a huge amount of resources at my fingertips, the information is not secreted away as you suggest. Are you really suggesting the majority of younger gay men cannot find adequate basic info on HIV?

        Whilst you do not see the benefit of social media such as Twitter & Facebook, they provide an ever important platform upon which younger gay men can be reached, yet you have to date been highly critical of such approaches. I am very unclear what approach you believe will work – you have balked at community involvement campaigns that have been run by 56 Dean Street, the “mind the gap” tube spoof, community testing initiatives such as the GAY testing on WAD, National HIV Testing Week etc.

        Apart from putting condoms on people I really am not sure what you think will work; of course we must at all costs avoid using tax payers money! You must live in a very insular, bubble, devoid of any real life experience!

        1. W6, if you are going to deign to respond to one if my posts, I would be most humbled were you to do me the honour of taking the time and effort to register each word in the context within the particular sentence it thus appears:- instead of wading in seemingly every time like a dimented boxer about to go 10 rounds with Mike Tyson and selectively cherry-picking random quotes out of context before then processing it all through a PC filter.

          By not doing so you not only miss he entire point I am making:- you also made yourself look extremely foolish.

          Just because cyberspace would appear to be your spiritual home on which you spend most of your time networking and participating in online forums, that is not nevessarily an experience shared by the majority of gay men.

          After all, do have the occasional trip to Waitrose, EastEnders and sex lives too you know!

          Thank you.

          1. This is one of my main objections to your approach – you are not the voice of “the majority of gay men”, a phrase that crops up with you time & time again.

            You set yourself up as some champion “for the right of negative gay men to stay negative” when in reality you harbour irrational fears & are known to stray into HIV denial theories, & have no confidence in the testing protocols we use here in the UK.

            You spend all your time here on PN discrediting HIV service providers, undermining the fantastic care & treatment available here in the UK; which is all designed to scaremongering & perpetuate stigma.

            To use one of your well worn phrases “you are part of the problem & not the solution”.

  16. jacqui pollock 12 Mar 2013, 12:40am

    I have been working in the HIV field since 1986 first on a personnal level then professionally. It has and still is my belief to treat and educate all about safe sex and taking resposibiity for their own actions, I have seen over the years huge sums of money going into gay mens work, sexual health, outreach in the parks, saunas,condoms in all the bars,MRC done every gay bar in Edinburgh and Glasgow with questionaires. For me its about being a responsible person and caring enough for people as once you see what its like to have hiv /aids in real life surely you would not want that for anyone. Our organisation is self funded very little money and we have reached and helped lots and lots of people over the years, we dont seperate people its of no difference to us how someone caught the virus help is for all.

    1. “For me its about being a responsible person and caring enough for people”

      Spot on, Jacqui, and you encourage people to be responsible by empowering them to respect their health and the well being of others.

      Yet the only empowering messages we see in sexual health awareness campaigns seem to encourage gay men to “Get the sex you want”, which invariably sideline safer sex itself or “empower” us to have sex without condoms whilst enticing us to “pull out like porn stars” and/or “cum over his back” [c] GMFA

      The message, however well-intentioned, has consistently become blurred, diluted and confused.

      A good HIV campaign should be simple and make its message clear, unequivocal and not open to any other interpretation:- not a mixed message containing different meanings that serve only to confuse and disengage the target audience.

      I sincerely do hope these are lessons the GMFA have learned as they enter into their new paradigm of “stronger, louder” HIV prevention campaigning.

  17. jacqui pollock 12 Mar 2013, 12:45am

    Forgot to say the most important part, the same messages should be for all the public not just gay men. We must curb the spread and be able to see the numbers fall to 0.

  18. I know Im gonna get low marks for this, but boys, for goodness sake, DON’T have anal sex and maybe try something else??

    1. Easy for you to say, Jess, but it’s the only slot machine us boyz are equipped with.

      Do you suggest we start watching lesbian porn to see how creative our sisters are in developing alternative, non-penetrative sex techniques?

      1. Please note, Jess, that the above was posted with tongue wedged firmly in cheek?

        Mmmm, talking of alternative techniques…

        1. There is a mouth too? Besides anal sex just gives us gays a bad name!

          1. And there was i assuming you were one of the gurlzzz.

            Blush!!

  19. Government and the medical community have important roles to play to back up the safe-sex campaign. From last summer:

    “Medical experts in B.C. are seeking to have every person in the province who has ever been sexually active tested for HIV/AIDS, saying the initiative could be “the beginning of the end” of the disease.
    Key to the strategy is a test that can reveal in less than one minute whether or not someone is HIV-positive, which was demonstrated at a Vancouver medical conference Wednesday.” http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/story/2012/07/18/bc-hiv-aids-testing-campaign.html

    HIV+ patients can then be treated aggressively (HAART) to reduce the risk of infecting someone else if they ignore safe-sex guidelines. http://www.cfenet.ubc.ca/stop-hiv-aids/about

    1. So you are advocating treatment as prevention, along with testing presumably?

      And at the total exclusion of traditional, common sense deterrent campaigns?

  20. This is what I hate. Why cant they say “men who practice anal sex” or “men who practice unsafe sex” why does it say “gay men” thats just grouping all gay men who have safe sex as AIDS catchers. Seriously pink news, dont degrade the inocent gay men who practice safe sex!!

  21. Tim Gluckman 17 Mar 2013, 9:34am

    Well-argued piece. Worth mentioning IDUs (Injecting Drug Users) in this context who are the true Cinderellas of HIV policy bc eg they are not considered worth saving whereas haemophiliacs…BBC on 1.12 always forget IDUs

  22. Michael Stevens 19 Mar 2013, 8:28pm

    Promoting condom use among all men who have sex with men as the automatic option is the only way to stop this trend.

    Other things, such as testing and better medication contribute to controlling the epidemic, but pushing for condom use as the expected norm rather than an optional extra is the only way to go.

    This is how we have managed the epidemic in New Zealand, and our results have been better than just about any other developed nation.

  23. As a former employee for THT I can say that the real opportunity for change lies in their need to develop more robust intervention strategies instead of distributing condoms to the same population (who only stockpile them) and then counting those as unique interventions in their reports. They need to find a creative way (i.e. through corporate partnerships) to continue providing services and prevention materials when the local contracts shrink, and they need to have a real come-to-jesus over their spending; restructuring existing practices to spend less on overall administration.

  24. Takeresponsibility 11 Apr 2013, 5:53pm

    The reason more prominence and money is not given to educating people about HIV risks is because people have already been told all there is to know about taking responsibility for yourself and others: Wear A Condom.

    There are much more complex health conditions that people do need help understanding and educating on… Ad this requires money and airtime.

    If we’re honest this is not about education, it’s about some in the gay community choosing not to look after themselves. We already know everything we need to know and we need to take responsibility or this – as do the increasing number of straight people choosing to go bareback.

  25. Oh because straight people cant get aids and aren’t promiscuous. It’s people like you who skipped all your health classes.

  26. Oh because straight people cant get aids and aren’t promiscuous. Vaginal sex includes NO protection whatsoever. It’s people like you who skipped all their classes in health and fitness.

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