9.21.2005

AIDS Groups walk away from gay men

It is time for AIDS Walks across Canada.

Each year the walk continues, each of the last few years the numbers of walkers and funds raised is lower.

Here in British Columbia the numbers of gay men becoming infected with HIV is rising as many of us predicted three years ago. Look at these numbers...
  • 2000 - 144 positive test results
  • 2001 - 153;
  • 2002 - 160;
  • 2003 - 159;
  • 2004 - 180 gay men testing positive for HIV

These numbers should be going down. We live in a modern developed country. Why are they rising? The answer to that is not difficult to come too. The provincial government has failed to deliver funds despite a plea from gay men working in gay men's health. We have shown an increase in unsafe activity in data collected from the sexNow survey over the last four years.

There is an increasing movement of AIDS organizations to focus on other population demographics to detriment of gay men. Instead of acquiring more funds to do this work, the current funding has been moved out of gay mens health and prevention.

A few token efforts remain. Gayway in Vancouver is a promising program for gay men yet is being starved for prevention dollars. Their efforts are confined largely to one prevention campaign per year funded largely by Health Canada for a national effort. The money is ridiculously low. It amounts to about $150,000 for cross Canada development, production and distribution. It is amazing they get anything done at all.

The interest of AIDS organizations including those in BC has been to shift dollars to First Nations, injection drug users and women. This effort is driven in part for a need to place some emphasis there, but also to "de-gay" HIV/AIDS.

AIDS Groups are becoming institutionally homophobic in order to survive. This despite a number of gay men involved at or near the top of many of these groups. BC's three largest AIDS organizations are guilty of this and smaller ones have always been wary of being defined for providing services to gay men.

AIDS Vancouver Island and AIDS Vancouver both operate gay mens health programs. Both programs are well down the agenda of the organizations. Yet in both Vancouver and Vancouver Island, the number one group living with HIV is gay men. The number one group being newly tested with HIV is gay men.

Both these organizations were established by gay men and run by them for years, are failing the gay men that fought so hard to establish them.

Here are some examples of those failings, neither organization provides gay male case workers that gay men can relate too. They have very few if any HIV positive staff or membership on their boards of directors.

You would be hard pressed to find a time recently when their executive director spoke out about gay men and HIV in the media. Listen next time you hear them speak. They will refer to the growing numbers of new infections among women and first nations and concern for immigrant and youth. If they mention gay men it will be at the end.

In my work within AIDS organizations and I have worked with and or volunteered with eleven of them in BC, I have found internal resistance due to a lack of funds or other priorities moving to the forefront.

It has not been a healthy situation for gay guys. As the real numbers of gay men contracting HIV continues to rise, AIDS Organizations sit quietly back and hope the problem goes away and or some benevolent government or funder may drop some dollars in their pockets to address the problems and causes of increasing infections among gay men.

I know that the Aids Organizations maybe quiet as they are afraid of offending the provincial government. They are like every other group out there reliant on dollars from the government to operate and they have seen this BC Liberal government's mean spirited approach to those that dare criticize them. There is one difference here. These organizations in BC were started by gay men in the face of the same kind of government indifference years ago.

The largest number of people living in BC with HIV/AIDS are gay men and the fastest rising rate of new infections are gay men.

I wonder what those brave gay men, many living with AIDS, would think of the groups they started if they were around today. Would they say the AIDS movement has been taken over by a bunch of do gooders intent on survival? Would they think they were serving gay men well? Would they believe it was possible to see the number of new infections among gay men rise?

I suspect they would not be amused.

Read more in Xtra West!

6 comments:

HDcanuck said...

Yes, AIDS groups have abandoned gay men. All across the country and right here in Vancouver and across the strait in Victoria. We are no longer the flavour of the month, unless we happen to be gay AND first nations, or gay AND have a needle in our arm. I agree with everything you said Rick, except I don't think AIDS Walks are any use. AIDS Blockades by gay men of ASOs, however, might encourage them to wake up out of their shameful neglect.

HDcanuck said...

Oh, by the way ... I don't buy the oft-said excuse that ASOs don't speak up because of fears of affecting funding. Failure of ASOs to speak up for gay men when THEY KNOW THE NUMBERS = homophobia plain and simple. I think there is a strong case to be made for the idea that as ASOs have promoted the "AIDS is everyone's concern" platform (which is pure bunk), they have become homophobic organizations in the process.

Re-awakened Shaman said...

to hdcanuck :I like the idea of gay blockades of ASO's.

Here in vancouver many guys stay away from BCPWA and AIDS Vancouver because it feels unsafe and the atmosphere is anything but conducive to feeling healthy.

The same goes for the Dr. Peter Centre where I hear many a fight breaks out........

I do enjoy gayway and I am grateful but that is due to the gay men who are there as both volunteers and employees.

HDcanuck said...

Gayway is great, but it's grossly underfunded. That is as much (or more) the fault of AV as it is of the funding sources. The ASOs have ceased to make gay men's health and hiv prevention a priority. Where is the primary prevention for gay men in Vancouver? Not in the bars, that's for sure ... no condoms, no information, no health advisories, no outreach. Nothing. Do you know I called BCPWA recently to find out where the STD clinic was for HIV testing -- and was told "we don't have that information". No lie.

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HDcanuck said...

DEATH TO SPAMMERS!!