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HIV support coffers bare at most stressful time

Wed 9 Dec 2009 In: New Zealand Daily News View at NDHA

The country's biggest HIV people's support organisation has hit a financial crisis in the lead-up to Christmas, creating a bleak outlook for stressed people with HIV. Body Positive Auckland's chief executive Bruce Kilmister has confirmed that he has not drawn a salary for six months due to shortfalls from funding bodies which have in turn been hit by the economic recession. Body Positive had to let go several part time staffers earlier in the year. Now the gay-focussed group's ability to provide sufficient medical and other backup for HIV positive people facing financial and health stresses has become extremely limited at its busiest time of the year. Many HIV positive people, the vast majority of whom are gay men, are on limited incomes or health benefits and are unable to access professional care without subsidies provided by Body Positive. Already the organisation has had to significantly cut back on non-GP healthcare subsidies. "Despite Christmas and the holiday season being a time of happiness for most people, for those struggling with ill-health and depleted bank balances the stress of the next few weeks, and the aftermath of Christmas and New Year can lead those with HIV or AIDS to despair," says Kilmister. CASH-STRAPPED SERVICE While funding is still in place for some specific projects such as HIV testing, the Body Positive cupboard is almost bare for medical and associated support and for even the simplest things such as light bulbs and toilet paper. As a cost-saving measure, BP has already relinquished one third of its rented office and support services space which, before the recession's effects became apparent, had been extended to meet the growing needs of the record number of men now living with HIV. For each of the past four years almost 100 more gay and bi men nationally have been diagnosed with HIV infection and there is no indication that that pattern will change in the near future. "We realise that other organisations such as OutlineNZ have been struggling too, and felt it would have been inappropriate to reveal our own situation while the glbt community was already being so generous," says Kilmister, who had hoped some relief may have become available through funding sources. "But that has not occurred and many HIV positive people will be facing a bleak few months without the support we have always been able to provide in past years."    

Credit: Daily News staff

First published: Wednesday, 9th December 2009 - 12:05pm

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