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Monday, February 22, 1999 Published at 04:55 GMT


Gay men miss out on Aids funding

Money is not being targeted at gay men in some areas, the report says

Some health authorities in England are failing to protect gay men from the threat of HIV infection, according to a survey.

Institutionalised homophobia is blamed for the failure to make proper resources available for public health measures.


Derek Bodell of the National Aids Trust outlines health authority spending
The National Aids Trust found that health authorities spent on average only 20% of their HIV prevention budgets on gay men.

This is despite the fact that gay men account for 60% of new HIV cases.

But one of the authorities said the way the survey had been compiled did not include all the activities it provided.

New cases

About 1,500 gay men test positive for the virus every year, out of a total of 2,500 new cases in the UK.

The survey, Are Health Authorities Failing Gay Men?, also finds that 30% of authorities spend significantly more on fighting the spread of the virus among drug users.

Nationally, drug users account for just 150 to 200 HIV cases each year.

Government guidance requires authorities to target their HIV prevention work on those groups most at risk of infection.

Prevention activities include safer sex campaigns, community workshops, outreach activities and services to promote safer drug use.

Institutionalised homophobia

James Fitzpatrick, Development Officer at the National Aids Trust, said: "Despite some improvements, these findings suggest that gay men are being failed by many health authorities.


Gavin Hart of the National Aids Trust: "More needs to be done"
"It is possible that we are seeing needless cases of HIV infection in some areas due to a culture of institutionalised homophobia."

Mr Fitzpatrick said health authorities were missing an opportunity to invest their resources cost-effectively because preventing HIV saved money in the long-term.

"We call on health authorities to review their HIV work with gay men and ensure they grasp this opportunity," he said.

The survey analyses spending summaries for 1997/97 provided by 92 of England's 100 health authorities.

Poor performers included Dorset Health Authority, which spent just six per cent of its HIV prevention budget on services for gay men in the Bournemouth area, even though they account for 75% of local infections.

However, Pauline Chudley, from the authority, said the survey did not offer a true picture of the its efforts.

"We do a lot of work through our genito-urinary medicine clinics," she said.

"As well as treatment, we do a lot of preventive work with partners and contacts."

She added that the authority ran public health sessions at schools and targeted information at drugs users.

"None of this sort of work shows up in the HIV budget."

Criticism

Other health authorities which the trust said failed to invest sufficiently in HIV services for gay men include:

  • North West Lancashire
  • Liverpool
  • Merton, Sutton and Wandsworth.

But a spokesman for Liverpool health authority said the report was "inaccurate".

He said it only seemed to have taken figures from two projects specifically targeted at gay men, while many of the authority's 18 other projects included services for gay men.

"We cannot quantify how much of these other projects are targeted at gay men," said the spokesman.

He added that one of the two specific projects for gay men had had its budget increased by 29% for this year.

The government is working on a new allocation formula for the annual Aids budget and on a national strategy for prevention, treatment and care of the disease.

Andrew Ridley, director of operations for the Aids charity The Terrence Higgins Trust, welcomed the report.

He said: "It is not the first time we have had proof that HIV prevention budgets are being misspent.

"It is about time we had a plausible explanation from these health authorities as to why their expenditure is so out of line with what would appear to be good public health policy.

"It is incumbent on them to prove that they do not have a culture of institutionalised homophobia."



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