David Cameron’s HIV Hypocrisy

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Just a few weeks ago David Cameron and other MPs sat in the House of Commons and wore red World AIDS Day ribbons for a community they clearly don’t understand.

“The ribbon is the universal symbol of HIV awareness and it was good to see so many MPs showing solidarity with people who live with HIV in the UK and around the world,”  ​said Cameron in his statement on December 1st. “Whilst the overall number of new diagnoses last year was down slightly on 2010, there was an increase amongst men who have sex with men. And a quarter of people living with HIV don’t know they have it. I am absolutely clear that there can be no complacency in our fight against HIV and AIDS.”

Cameron concluded by saying how the red ribbon is about more than showing solidarity with those living with HIV in the UK and abroad.

“It should also be a spur to increase testing and a symbol of our commitment to carrying on work to reduce infection levels whilst tackling the stigma, discrimination and prejudice often associated with HIV and sexual health.”

But we’ve heard it all before. Politicians deliver compassionate messages one day and deliver crushing blows the next. Despite more and more young people  ​being diagnosed HIV positive because of a lack of information about the issue, the government has announced that there will be ​devastating cuts to the national HIV prevention programme in England.

Funding will be halved for the year commencing April 2015 and there is, as yet, no government commitment to fund further years of the programme. It seems like yet another complete refusal to believe that the most imperative is needed at ground-level.

“This is not the right time for the government to pare back spending on HIV prevention,” says Dr Rosemary Gillespie, Chief Executive at  ​Terrence Higgins Trust. “In recent years, we have made good progress in driving down rates of undiagnosed and late-diagnosed HIV. However, tens of thousands of people with HIV across England are still undiagnosed and at increased risk of passing the virus on unwittingly. We have not yet reached the tipping point in our fight against the epidemic, and halving government spending on HIV prevention now would be a regressive step that risks undermining the headway we have made.”

The government’s ill-considered decision is in direct contradiction to Simon Stevens’ ‘ ​NHS Five Year Forward View‘, released in October. “The future health of millions of children, the sustainability of the NHS, and the economic prosperity of Britain all now depend on a radical upgrade in prevention and public health,” he wrote. “Twelve years ago, Derek Wanless’ health review warned that unless the country took prevention seriously we would be faced with a sharply rising burden of avoidable illness. That warning has not been heeded – and the NHS is on the hook for the consequences.”

Stevens’ report has been immensely influential and all the main political parties have expressed their support for its vision for the future of the NHS. It is striking that, within weeks of the government stating its support for the health vision of this publication, they are expressly contradicting one if its key tenets – the absolute centrality of prevention if we are to regain control of NHS finances.

“We have not yet reached the tipping point in our fight against the epidemic, and halving government spending on HIV prevention now would be a regressive step that risks undermining the headway we have made”  – Dr Rosemary Gillespie, Chief Executive, Terrence Higgins Trust

In 2004 there were 38,117 people with diagnosed HIV living in England. In 2013, that figure had risen to 74,760. Meanwhile, funding for HIV prevention work has drastically declined during that same period while transmission rates soared. Rather than increasing its efforts to tackle the spread of HIV and the existing stigma, the government’s response is to further squeeze the sector of its resources.

What’s more shocking still is how the government cuts affect two specific minority communities. The national HIV prevention programme focuses on two groups – men who have sex with men, and black African men and women. Yusef Azad of  ​National AIDS Trust agrees that the government is ignoring the needs of these communities.

“HIV is a health inequalities issue, since it disproportionately affects these minorities. Were British-born heterosexuals seeing the same percentages getting HIV as gay men and Africans there would be immense efforts by government to address the problem. When gay men and Africans experience such a public health crisis the response is to reduce further already inadequate funding.”

What this farce highlights is that the government, yet again, is looking for short-term gain at long-term sacrifice. Save money today, but let’s not think about the consequences of tomorrow.  Azad agrees. “All governments pay lip-service to this principle and to the fact prevention is cost-effective and often cost-saving. It is only in a time of budgetary pressure that we learn whether they really mean it.

Preventing just one HIV transmission saves the public purse ​£360,777, according to recent modelling. The national prevention programme pays for itself many times over. “This cut will not save £1 million, says Azad. “It will mean spending many millions in preventable treatment costs.”

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UKIP kicked out of London offices after HIV activists dump horse s**t outside

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UKIP has been kicked out its offices in Croydon, after a group of HIV activists dumped a pile of horse manure outside on World AIDS Day.

ACT UP London staged a protest outside UKIP’s Croydon North and Lambeth office last week, in reaction to “bullshit” offensive statements by UKIP on HIV.

UKIP leader Nigel Farage said in October, when asked whether which kinds of people should be allowed to enter the UK: “People who do not have HIV, to be frank. That’s a good start.”

The party’s local chairman Winston McKenzie told Steven Downes of Inside Croydon that the protest “was the last straw” for their office owners – and UKIP will have to find a new home.

An email to party members said: “I have recently been informed by our Deputy Chairman, Barry Slayford, that after careful consideration and advice from the Police, who he informs me have been very specific, Barry Slayford is no longer willing to allow his premises to be used to accommodate UKIP Branch meetings.

“In view of the continued arguments, accusations, disregard for Party Rules and complete disruption by certain members of the Branch, he insists that he has no alternative but to adhere to the advice of Croydon Police.

“He assures me that he will email all concerned imminently. Any Meetings that were scheduled for December are now cancelled with immediate effect.

“The matter has been referred to the R.O., Paul Oakley. On Monday morning I will notify the Party Chairman accordingly.”

Mr McKenzie initially refused to discuss the matter with Inside Croydon, saying: “When you wrote about me last time, you made me look like an idiot.”

However, he eventually confirmed: “I’m in the process now of looking for new offices. [The protest] was the last straw.

“It’s not just police advice… there’s been some disruption within the local party, with a couple of people who continue to disrupt the meetings.”

Dan Glass, a spokesperson for ACT UP, told PinkNews: “ACT UP can’t say we’re overcome with sympathy, having heard UKIP are being kicked out from their London office.

“They’ve expended a great deal of energy sowing division between neighbours and hostility against minorities. This just reinforces our original message: what goes around comes around.

“We’re confident the vast majority of Londoners would be happy to send the message that UKIP are not welcome here. ACT UP will continue to expose UKIP for the bigots they are.”

via Pink News

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This week’s Shooting Challenge Winner!

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Night Sweats 3 by Zoe Van De Velde

Congratulations once again ago to Zoe Van De Velde, in our final Shooting Challenge of this series.  Zoe has entered every week and brought with her thought provoking ideas and meanings which challenge the standard norms in HIV awareness work.  From the onset in Night Sweats 3, Zoe is illustrating seroconversion from the beginnings of HIV infection.  Though this photograph could also depict advanced HIV infection or possibly AIDS.

Zoe has said she is reminded of the Thom Gunn poem entitled “The Man with Night Sweats’ as he saw his friends dying.

I wake up cold, I who

Prospered through dreams of heat
Wake up to their residue,
Sweat, and a clinging sheet.

My flesh was its own shield:
Where it was gashed, it healed.

I grew as I explored
The body I could trust
Even while I adored
The risk that made robust,

A world of wonders in
Each challenge to the skin.

I cannot be sorry
The given shield was cracked
My mind reduced to hurry,
My flesh reduced and wrecked.

I have to change the bed,
But catch myself instead.

We hope to catch up with Zoe in the near future and talk about her photographs she has shared with us.

An overall winner of the shooting challenge will be chosen on Wednesday 17th December 2014 at the Positive Art exhibition on Charles Street, Leicester.  (Details here)

Thank you to everyone who has participated in the Shooting Challenge, we hope you had fun with your photography as we have had viewing your photographs.

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Defend HIV prevention funding for England!

The Government has announced that funding for the national HIV prevention programme in England will be cut by 50% from April 2015.

Key points:

  • The Government is reducing funding for HIV prevention by 50% from 2015
  • There is no indication that HIV transmission rates in England are reducing and there continue to be major gaps in public understanding of how to prevent HIV
  • HIV prevention funding must remain at least at current levels

We think that this is outrageous, given the ongoing high rates of HIV transmission in England and significant gaps in public understanding about HIV.

If you are based in England, please write to the Public Health Minister, Jane Ellison, and ask for funding to be continued at least at current levels for the next three years.

To do the ask, PLEASE visit http://act.lifewithhiv.org.uk/lobby/HPE. Anyone can do the ask, whether or not you are signed up to the HIV Activist Network and  please share this link with anyone you think would be interested in this campaign.

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Shooting Challenge: Week 6 Winner & Week 7: “Anything Goes!”

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Transcendent Ecstasy by Zoe Van De Velde

Congratulations to Zoe Van De Velde, who created this beautiful image depicting unsafe sex.  Auto-erotic asphyxia is a method of increasing sexual excitement by restricting the oxygen supply to the brain, usually by tightening a noose around the neck.  It often arouses interest among the less experienced – curious schoolboys and young men keen to experiment with masturbation in the belief that the practice heightens sensation at orgasm.  What is not passed on is the fact that it can be fatal.

Although statistics have never been recorded in Britain, one US study estimated that there are between 500 and 1,000 deaths from auto-erotic asphyxia every year. An analysis of 135 such cases by the FBI found the average age of the victims was 26.

Photographs of unsafe sex typically centre on the safe use of condoms and staying safe with your partner.  Zoe has photographed is unsafe sex outside of the ‘normal’ realms which all too often, sexual health charities sometimes ignore.  (Read more about the dangers of Asphyxiation here and here).

Zoe has featured in every #ShootingChallenge week, thank you Zoe! You can see Zoe’s work and that of all our Shooting Challenge entrants (up to two weeks ago) at the Positive Art exhibition on Charles Street, Leicester.  (Details here)

This is our LAST WEEK! – an overall winner will be selected on 17th December at the close of the Positive Art exhibition.

WEEK 7: ANYTHING GOES!

For our last Shooting Challenge let’s keep it easy, in some weeks we’ve had few entries and last week we received just one.  We’re throwing the rule book out the window so you can photograph anything, provided there’s a reason for it relating to HIV and what it means to you.   We’ve been thrilled to see your images on HIV, and we hope you’ve had fun creating the images for the challenge!.  This week, with no restrictions we’d love to see what you come up with!  It could be that of community, an image depicting HIV medicine, a red ribbon, fear or sigma you name it! Your photo could be thought-provoking or humorous, colour or monochrome, have a ‘message’ or just be a great shot that tells a story without any words.  As with last week, there’s no photographic technique to use,

You do not need to be a photographer to join into this competition (and if your a student of the art, we’d love to see your ideas and pictures)!  Almost everyone has a camera on their phone, everyone is capable of taking photographs – we’d like to tap into this, get creative with the gear you already have, it’s not about the tech, it’s about YOU!

THE BRIEF:

Anything goes, simply photograph a representation of HIV or Safer Sex!

THE EXAMPLE

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You no longer need examples! – Check out all the work you’ve done! – Thank you all for participating!

THE RULES:

  • Follow the brief
  • Send your best photos by 6PM on Sunday 14th December 2014 with “Shooting Challenge” in the subject to photography@lass.org.uk and we’ll announce the winner on Monday, 15th December.
  • Submissions must be your own work.
  • Photos must be taken after the challenge was published; so no existing shots please.
  • Explain briefly in your submission email the equipment, settings, technique used and the story behind the image/images.
  • We will of course credit you so if you have a website or twitter handle, let us know! – If you’re happy for us to use the images elsewhere on our site – do let us know!
  • Save your image as a JPG, and use the following naming convention FirstnameLastnameAnythingGoes.jpg
  • Anyone can enter, regardless of camera gear, or location!
  • The most important rule — HAVE FUN!
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Shooting Challenge: Week 5 Winner & Week 6: “Unsafe Sex”

KeeberEstelleHIVTesting

HIV Testing by Estelle Keeber

Congratulations to Estelle Keeber, who created a collage of emotions.  Estelle has said there are various emotions when confronted with HIV testing and there is a mix of people to show that HIV and HIV testing can affect everyone.  She also said this is light hearted, hence the exaggerated expressions but the message is clear.  That it is ok to feel however you want about HIV testing, that everyone is different.  You can see Estelle’s work and that of all our Shooting Challenge entrants (up to last week) at the Positive Art exhibition on Charles Street, Leicester.  (Details here)

Other entrants this week are Celia Fisher, Gavin Whyman and Zoe Van-De-Velde, (images below).  Thank you all for your pictures this week and we can’t wait to see what you come up with next week!

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It Started With Me by Celia Fisher

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Powers Of Persuasion by Celia Fisher

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Know your Viruses by Gavin Whyman

 

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Witch Trial by Zoe Van-De-Velde

 WEEK 6: UNSAFE SEX!

As with last week, there’s no photographic technique this week but we do want you the conform to theme.  We’ve spoken about stigma, big phama, chastity, infections, HIV testing & Safe Sex.  This week, we’d like to know how you would photograph Unsafe Sex.  (Now, bear in mind we’re a family blog, so nothing which can be considered pornographic thank you)!

You do not need to be a photographer to join into this competition (and if your a student of the art, we’d love to see your ideas and pictures)!  Almost everyone has a camera on their phone, everyone is capable of taking photographs – we’d like to tap into this, get creative with the gear you already have, it’s not about the tech, it’s about YOU!

THE BRIEF:

Photograph what you consider unsafe sex to be.  This could be a broken condom, (no condoms)? — drugs, one night stands, alcohol, etc.. get creative and show us how you can represent what unsafe sex can be!  You could be literal, conceptual, funny, clever, thought provoking, depressive, emotive, sexy, it’s all about what you can come up with, and who knows, you could win!

THE EXAMPLE

RobsonTomUnsafe

Ready & Waiting by Tom Robson

In the photograph above, you see clear signs of substance abuse together with an on-line dating app.  What’s just happened? – The individual is face down, is he conscious? Did he manage to get a fix? Did he manage to find someone before he passed out?  What did he say to them if he did? How will he be looked after?  Can he be assured he’s about to have safe sex? These are just the starting questions from this photograph.  Is there anything in this scene which is safe? – Has he called for an ambulance? What is about to happen?

This shot was quickly set up and posed for, yet it’s connotations are that of unsafe sex. – What will your gaze tell you?

THE RULES:

  • Follow the brief
  • Send your best photos by 6PM on Sunday 7th December 2014 with “Shooting Challenge” in the subject to photography@lass.org.uk and we’ll announce the winner on Monday, 8th December as we set the theme for next week’s shooting challenge.
  • Submissions must be your own work.
  • Photos must be taken after the challenge was published; so no existing shots please.
  • Explain briefly in your submission email the equipment, settings, technique used and the story behind the image/images.
  • We will of course credit you so if you have a website or twitter handle, let us know! – If you’re happy for us to use the images elsewhere on our site – do let us know!
  • Save your image as a JPG, and use the following naming convention FirstnameLastnameUnsafe.jpg
  • Anyone can enter, regardless of camera gear, or location!
  • The most important rule — HAVE FUN!
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HIV is ‘weakening over time’

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HIV H9 T-cell II (NIH)

Oxford University researchers have found that the HIV virus is evolving to become less deadly and less infectious.  The rapid evolution of HIV, a human immunodeficiency virus, is slowing its ability to cause AIDS, according to a study of more than 2,000 women in Africa.

Scientists at Oxford University have said that research suggests a less virulent HIV could be one of several factors contributing to a turning of the deadly pandemic, eventually leading to the end of AIDS.

“Overall we are bringing down the ability of HIV to cause AIDS so quickly,” Philip Goulder, a professor at Oxford University who led the study, told Reuters news agency.  But it would be overstating it to say HIV has lost its potency – it’s still a virus you wouldn’t want to have.”

Some 35 million people currently have HIV and AIDS has killed around 40 million people since it began spreading 30 years ago.

But campaigners noted on Monday that for the first time in the epidemic’s history, the annual number of new HIV infections is lower than the number of HIV-positive people being added to those receiving treatment, meaning a crucial tipping point has been reached in reducing deaths from AIDS.

http://c.brightcove.com/services/viewer/federated_f9?isVid=1&isUI=1

The research team studied cases in Botswana and South Africa – two countries badly hit by AIDS – where they enrolled more than 2,000 women with HIV.

First the research team looked at whether the interaction between the body’s natural immune response and HIV leads to the virus becoming less virulent or able to cause disease.

Previous research on HIV has shown that people with a gene known as HLA-B*57 can benefit from a protective effect against HIV and progress more slowly than usual to AIDS.

The scientists found that in Botswana, HIV has evolved to adapt to HLA-B*57 more than in South Africa, so patients no longer benefited from the protective effect.  But the research team also found the cost of this adaptation for HIV is a reduced ability to replicate – making it less virulent.

The scientists then analysed the impact on HIV virulence of the wide use of AIDS drugs.  Using a mathematical model, they found that treating the sickest HIV patients, whose immune systems have been weakened by the infection, accelerates the evolution of variants of HIV with a weaker ability to replicate.

“HIV adaptation to the most effective immune responses we can make against it comes at a significant cost to its ability to replicate,” Goulder said. “Anything we can do to increase the pressure on HIV in this way may allow scientists to reduce the destructive power of HIV over time.”

A full copy of the scientific paper is available online (link)

 

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