Wednesday, April 14, 2010

HIV prevention and the Immigrant African MSM in London

As the political climate in the UK hots up, there are many expectations from many people and the three political parties are trying their best to make as many promised as possible, from Conservatives "giving power to the people", to Labour promise of "better future for all" and the Liberal Democrats saying "Better and Fairer Tax for all"

One thing that is of big concern to me is the issue of politicians commitment to "Sexual Health", and when I talk about sexual health, as a concerned sexual health advocate, I am talking about promise from politician on investment in Research and investing in treatment option. More money into prevention work for high risk groups, and the decriminalization of HIV transmission.

In the 80’s HIV was more of a winning gimmick for politicians. They made promises to tackle the epidemic, but 25 years on, with increasing number of people getting infected every minute, that issue is no more a political priority. As even more importantly is the issue of Immigrants and HIV transmission in Europe and mostly in the UK.

In 2007, I had the opportunity to kick start a project funded by the Newham PCT. The concept behind which was to provide prevention services for African MSM living in London, so that there can be an uptake of HIV testing and thereby reduce late diagnosis.

In 3 years, the project saw a huge interest in testing, and more men have been placed on treatment, they have been trained to be community champions, and this has seen more of this men coming to term with their sexuality.

But just when the excitement was high, and we are seeing an improvement in the sexual health of Immigrant African MSM, the funder are not sure this is a viable project, they are faced with the need to cut back on public funding and to prioritize spending within the Health system, and the first victim will be those projects that are not considered as point scoring.

With a service user base of over 50, this project, being the only in the whole of UK, providing such service for Immigrant African MSM will come an end, and the men will have to look elsewhere for their sexual health needs, and the funny thing is this might take another five years before another primary care trust sees the reason to fund such a project.

So, in 2010, HIV treatment, research, and prevention investment is not a political point scoring, but it gulps more money than even the banks.

So as I pack my bags and leave a dream behind, I think of many African MSM that will be arriving the UK with dire need for sexual health, one that is design to understand the dynamics of their identity and social constructs.

Just really wish someone can see beyond their nose.