HIV services improved but difficult to access

Amy Bourke April 10, 2007
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A study by sexual health charity Terrence Higgins Trust has found that gay and bisexual men are more satisfied with sexual health services in England and Wales than they were in the late 1990s.

Although it’s still difficult to get an appointment in many clinics, once through the door men are happier with the service.

The annual Gay Men’s Sex Survey, undertaken by Sigma Research and commissioned by THT, found that dissatisfaction with sexual health services fell between 1998 and 2005, and that there was an increase in perceived service quality.

Will Nutland, Head of Health Promotion at Terrence Higgins Trust said:

“Sexual health services in the UK have been under extreme pressure in recent years, yet the quality of the service does not appear to have fallen.

“Some clinics may be struggling to meet the 48 hour access target but despite pressures on staff, gay men are increasingly being treated with courtesy and respect and are receiving a professional service.”

A report by the AIDS Funders’ Forum released yesterday claimed that service providers are not addressing the needs of HIV positive gay men.

Their report is based on the results of a survey of HIV service commissioners and service providers from across the UK.

Commissioners felt that the needs of gay men living with HIV were generally well-met by current HIV services.

All participants in the survey were asked which community groups they thought had service needs which were not currently met, and which target groups were most in need of future funding for HIV services.

Very few commissioners mentioned gay men, although most recognised black and minority ethnic groups, asylum seekers and their families.

The respondents that did mention gay men suggested that their medical needs were being ignored.

According to the report, by the end of 2005, the total number of people diagnosed with HIV/AIDS in the UK was more than 47,000, growing by up to 7,000 new diagnoses every year.

Lord Smith of Finsbury, a former Cabinet minister, who is HIV positive, told PA:

“This report reveals that there are too many people living with HIV who are simply not getting access to the services they need.

“This could, of course, have grave consequences for their overall health and well-being.”

The THT research found that more gay and bisexual men are being offered an HIV test at their last sexual health clinic visit than in previous years, with 86% of men being offered a test in 2005.

Peter Weatherburn, Director of Sigma Research said, “The increase in HIV diagnoses among gay and bisexual men in recent years has been partially explained by a large increase in HIV testing.

“An offer of an HIV test is now the norm during a sexual health clinic visit which is excellent. It’s essential that as much is done as possible to identify the third of people who remain undiagnosed.”

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