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Sunday 09 April 2017


'Budget blowouts' behind Ministry nixing HIV study

Posted in: New Zealand Daily News
By GayNZ.com Daily News staff - 6th October 2016

Health board budget blow-outs, a $18million over-run in the cost of the Ministry of Health's head office refurbishment and an internal restructuring of the Ministry which has allegedly led to the loss of many senior, experienced staff are all being suggested as contributing to the Ministry's inability to find funding for important HIV prevention research.

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GayNZ.com Daily News revealed yesterday that funding for the GAPSS and GOSS behavioural research study, which was initially funded by the Ministry every two years but in more recent times every three years, has been nixed by the Ministry. Sexual health and prevention organisations rely on the information which is already three years out of date. Australia conducts a similar survey every year.

A letter provided this morning to GayNZ.com Daily News, from the Ministry to the University of Auckland, which runs the studies, acknowledges the "important role" played by the studies, providing "important information for combating the HIV epidemic in New Zealand, including informing HIV prevention programmes for the [men who have sex with men] community."

"Following a review of our funding priorities for the coming year we will not be able to enter a contract with the University of Auckland for GAPSS/GOSS behavioural surveillance this financial year."

The letter goes on to say its decision "is not a reflection on the quality, merits or value" of the study and "nor does this decision rule out the possibility of future surveys.

While the Ministry and the Minister of Health have yet to formally respond to GayNZ.com on the matter, our usually reliable sources within the health sector are convinced the study is a victim of Ministry cost over-runs, budget blow-outs, a loss of "the experienced, wiser heads" in the ministry, and its new procurement arrangements which now include direct Treasury involvement.

GAPSS/GOSS project lead researcher Dr Peter Saxton says he cannot disclose the actual cost to the Ministry of the survey as it is considered commercially sensitive.

“However I can say that it represents good value for money and is on a par with or less than similar ongoing research programmes,” he says.

With the cost to the government of treating HIV infection currently running at around $800,000 per person over their lifetime Saxton notes that “if every eight years the GAPSS/GOSS programme leads to just one young gay man avoiding HIV because prevention services have been improved based on the findings, then it would have easily paid for itself.”




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