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Sunday 09 April 2017

MOH drops HIV research at 'worst possible time'

Posted in: New Zealand Daily News
By Daily News staff - 5th October 2016

As HIV diagnoses soar amongst men who have sex with men the most important ongoing research conducted in this country into the nature of the changing HIV epidemic has come to a halt after being denied funding by the Ministry of Health.


Auckland University gay men's health researcher Dr Peter Saxton has today confirmed that a funding application for the latest round of the Gay Auckland Periodic Sex Survey (GAPSS) and its associated Gay Online Sex Survey (GOSS), both considered vital tools in the fight against the HIV epidemic amongst men who have sex with men, has been turned down by the Ministry.

"GAPSS and GOSS are absolutely critical to directing the way the scarce resources available for HIV prevention are used," Saxton says. "The last time we were able to do this survey was in 2014 so our data are already three years out of date. And yet there are monumental changes in prevention strategies and technologies and an infection rate which is already the highest ever since the epidemic began thirty years ago and is continuing to track upwards."

For the Ministry to bail out of this research now "is the worst possible timing," he says.

Current and looming changes likely to impact on HIV prevention and treatment and gay and bi men's sexual health include changes based on making HIV a notifiable disease, a study on the PrEP prevention technique, the availability of HPV vaccine for young gay and bi men from January 4th, the Ministry's looming new plan for sexual health and reproduction, and the strategic review currently under way at the NZ AIDS Foundation.

A similar ongoing research programme in Australia is conducted every year in order to quickly detect social and sexual behaviour changes, to pinpoint where to prioritise resources and to quickly gauge the effectiveness of new strategies.

For the GAPSS component of the NZ research gay and bi men are interviewed in person at Auckland glbti events and venues during the Auckland Pride festival. For GOSS similar information is elicited from other men through internet- and app-based facilities.

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