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AIDS cash crisis


This article from the 'Lesbian and Gay News West Midlands', February 1992, highlights the lack of funding for health promotion targeted specifically at gay men, who bore the brunt of the epidemic during the crisis.


Gay rights campaigners in Birmingham have started a national debate on the lack of HIV prevention funding for gay men following the release of Department of Health figures which show that 64% of the new HIV diagnoses in the West Midlands in 1991 were among gay men.

The February edition of Gay Times carries a full page article on the subject with the convenor of the Birmingham Gay Men's Health Group, , quoted at length on the failure of local health authorities and voluntary organisations to fund initiatives aimed at preventing the spread of HIV among gay men.

Mr. Bestel told LGN, "We are now more than a decade into this epic epidemic in the UK and there is still no coherent programme of action or significant funding directed towards the gay community by either health authorities or voluntary organisations in Birmingham and the Midlands." This is despite a budget of approaching 7 million for the West Midlands region for care and prevention in which less than 1% has been spent on gay men's initiatives in the last financial year.
Edward King, Development Officer for the Terrence Higgins Trust, confirmed that the West Midlands was not an isolated case when he told Gay Times that "these figures could easily apply any where in the country".

The main targets of campaigners' wrath are the district health authorities who have failed to take up the cash offered by regional health authorities to develop prevention projects specifically for gay men. The frustration of activists has been increased by revelations from the National Audit Office - the Government's own spending watchdog - that up to 30 million from AIDS budgets remained unspent last year by health authorities and was diverted to other health issues or used to reduce overspends.
Mr. Bestel said, "The West Midlands RHA is now, belatedly, putting some pressure on the districts to address the needs of gay men. This is welcome but it remains to be seen whether the local health service managers will take the hint."

Activists also believe that the voluntary organisations in the HIV/ AIDS field should support the calls for more spending on gay men and are believed to be "disappointed" that the voluntary sector, in which many gay men are involved, has been reluctant to put at risk its own funding by getting involved in pressurising the health districts to fund gay related initiatives.

At the end of 1991 there were 559 people in the West Midlands known to have HIV infection of whom 252 (44%) were gay men. Gay men accounted for (64%) of the new cases of HIV infection diagnosed in the West Midlands last year.

Contributed by: Lesbian and Gay News West Midlands, 16

Click here to read the full interview with this contributor