HIV Stigma is Institutional; Simply Raising Awareness Won’t Help

As part of World AIDS Day, Pills and Policies attended a panel discussion on HIV stigma at the University of Oxford. This was organised by Sexpression, Oxford LGBTQ Society, Terrence Higgins Trust and Oxford University Student Union (OUSU).

 

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From left to right, the experts: Ant Babajee, Dr Catherine Dodds, Marija Pantelic, Professor Sarah Rowland-Jones, and Tom Gardiner 

 

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Pills and Policies at Pride: Health Equality Means Acknowledging that Certain Groups Have Specific Health Needs

Empowered people uniting in public displays of solidarity, equality and activism, marching to vibrant sounds: This is Brighton’s 25th anniversary of Pride. Pills and Policies joins the celebration and protest for LGBT rights, with a specific focus on health equality.

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25th annual Brighton Pride

“Never Kissed a Tory”

Although the day was not centred on LGBT health, there was an underlying emphasis that this was a key area of concern and that the current state of health provision is inadequate. It was nice to see a strong NHS presence at Pride, with representatives from various departments such as paramedics and nurses. On the other hand, the involvement of politicians (mainly from Labour and the Liberal Democrats) was viewed by many as a contradiction to the Pride movement, and was almost intrusive. Clearly, individuals too often felt that policies do not represent their concerns as LGBT youth.

The numerous charities in the parade overshadowed whatever influence the NHS and politicians had, perhaps symbolic of their relative importance in addressing LGBT health concerns. These charities, such as Samaritans and Grassroots suicide prevention, took an active role, providing helpline information whilst other charities handed out condoms. The government does work with such voluntary groups and the private sector, but more should be offered on the NHS.

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In general, the health needs of LGBT communities are similar to non-LGBT, but there are some unique needs. Admittedly, the LGBT communities are very diverse and have varying experiences as a result of other factors, including their ethnicity, socioeconomic status, religion and gender. Social factors play a significant role in the uniqueness of the LGBT health needs, with various social agents involved – such as teachers, health service providers, peers, parents and policy makers. There are too many variables occurring simultaneously, making it difficult to pinpoint who should – if anyone – take overall responsibility of LGBT health.

To explore all of this, we spent the day with Luke and Saj, members of London’s Mosaic LGBT youth group. Whilst enjoying the event, we found some time to discuss their specific health concerns as gay men. Amongst other issues, they identified that there were few spaces for the LGBT youth to talk about the challenges they face – something that is a necessity given that many can’t speak freely to their peers, teachers and parents. For Luke and Saj, Mosaic was the answer to this concern, as it was their only source of reliable health information. However, many are unable to access such safe spaces or are even unaware of their existence.

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