Sexual Health Services for gay & bisexual men in the Glasgow area are being overhauled this Autumn, spelling the end for a long-running charity in the city.
The dedicated sexual health charity, Gay Men’s Health (GMH), will close its Glasgow operation after funding was withdrawn in a controversial decision by NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde (NHSGGC) earlier this year. Staff and volunteers will be affected as all services which operate from the Bell Street base will come to an end, described by one volunteer as a “double blow”.
In a statement back in June, NHSGGC announced services would be delivered without the help of the third sector organisations after a joint study with NHS Lothian into service provision indicated a new focus should be given to the engagement of younger men to come forward for testing.
However, outgoing GMH Chief Executive, Bruce Fraser, hit back in his response to the decision, saying, “We are very surprised that the decision has been taken. We are gravely concerned that NHSGGC are going against current research, choosing to take all services into the NHS, and we are anxious that this could lead to disengagement with the gay and bisexual communities in Glasgow and could result in higher incidence of HIV transmissions and acquisition of STIs, putting the health of gay and bisexual men at increased risk.”
Funding of over £200,000 will now be diverted from GMH and an additional £80,000 spent on delivering more community clinics and Point of Care, which give instant testing results for men who have sex with men.
The charity has a number of volunteers in the city, delivering STI testing facilities, counselling services, sexual health training and condom distribution and is well known in gay venues.
Tommy Clarke, who has been volunteering with GMH for over 5 years, told KaleidoScot of an “outcry” amongst volunteers and that the service will be missed, “I have made some wonderful friendships and learned [new] skills. In December 2013 I had decided to fundraise by doing a number of activities and events. The year-long project, which I named Red Ribbon Bear, was a new venture and rewarding experience. This news that funding for the charity has been cut, is more of a double blow.”
The charity, which was established in 1995, had over £500,000 of public money for the provision of services in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Grampian from the NHS in 2013. Services in Edinburgh will see adjustments to the range delivered in the coming months, although services in Grampian will be unaffected.
Nicky Coia, HIV Programme Manager, Public Health Protection Unit, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, said: “We acknowledge and value the contribution made by Gay Men’s Health and their volunteers who have helped distribute condoms and disseminate information in gay venues about the risks of unprotected sex.
“The comprehensive findings from the HIV prevention assessment however highlighted that the type of advice that MSM need is better delivered in the environment of an NHS sexual health service.”
Despite the news, Alastair Rose, Project and Operations Lead at the charity, added “We are still very positive, we’re looking forward to the work we have with NHS Lothian and NHS Grampian.”