It has accomplished this dominance by pursuing a virtual monopoly, achieved by swallowing up more than 20 smaller HIV charities across the UK since 1999 and "streamlining" each acquisition with often extreme cost-cutting procedures that trim vital services to the bone or axes them altogether - a monopolistic precedent that THT's seemingly eternal chief suit, Nick Partridge, regards as "an exciting opportunity to make a real impact for the UK as a whole". In 2010, THT completed its virtual buyout of AID$ Inc. UK by absorbing the oldest surviving HIV charity, Crusade.
"How did [THT] consult with service users, the very people for whose benefit we exist? Were the views of the stakeholders and funders taken into account? THT...plans for a pale shadow of existing structures."
~ Roy Kilpatrick [Chair of HIV Scotland on another THT merger]
"There are so many people in need and so little in the way of services all over the UK. I've been horrified by all this, and am getting sick and tired of what I believe is jobs for the boys and dishonesty within the HIV sector. Where is the money going? I know I'm going to piss some people off, but Positive Nation is going to start exposing organisations who are taking advantage of HIV people and those who do not do what they are being paid to do with our taxes and charitable donations."
~ Ian Thomas [Publisher, Positive Nation]
While THT has been swooping on financially vulnerable HIV charities it has simultaneously been "asset stripping" HIVers' vital services, citing lack of funds. In May 2006 - the month it moved to larger, multi-million pound offices in central London - the charity quietly announced the closure of its Specialist Advice Centre which provided vital, high-level legal casework for dozens of HIV+ individuals, absurdly blaming "budgetary restraints" and "increasing financial pressures". The centre’s team of solicitors, who often gave their time voluntarily, stood up for the rights of HIVers who might otherwise have been unable to access legal representation over many years, winning numerous cases for those undergoing problems like immigration, housing, welfare benefits and social care.
"If the trend for mainstreaming our HIV services continues, I imagine we'll find ourselves in care settings which have all manner of impressive sounding equality policies displayed on the wall but [which] fail to deliver in concrete ways that actually allow us the freedom to be who we are without fear of reprisal."
~ Russell Fleet [Positive Nation]
By the end of 2009, the National AIDS Trust estimated there were 64,300 people living with diagnosed HIV in the UK, of which 27,427 were MSM (men who have sex with men). A further 22,200 people were estimated to be infected but undiagnosed, of whom 9,000 were MSM. THT's service user targets are made up by vast numbers of African immigrants and asylum seekers referred to THT by the NHS, who comprise nearly all of the UK's heterosexual HIV+ population and often receive priority treatment.
"Half of the UK AIDS spend is on African asylum seekers and refugees... UK AIDS agencies...know that the cash cow in the AIDS industry is African and not indigenous gay men. It is high time we had a robust public debate about how our AIDS funds are spent and distributed before indigenous HIV+ gay men lose even the few crumbs they currently are able to have."
~ Thomas Frank [Pink Paper]
THT's morphing from a gay men's HIV prevention charity into a bureacratised, market-driven mass HIV services provider, its complacency around HIV prevention and failure to educate effectively about correlated and causative health risks such that crystal meth represents is at odds with its long-stated prime objective spelled out, until recently, in its Mission Statement:
Effectively THT's mandate has been altered, from preventers of the spread of HIV via safe sex education and campaigning to advocates of "safer" sex and risk minimisation, while implicitly emphasising that although set up as a charity for gay men it now serves all HIVers irrespectively, thereby boosting even further demand for its government-funded services and, in turn, income. In this context it is easy to surmise how AID$ Inc. have created a problem - the failure to prevent soaring rates of HIV infection - to facilitate a self-serving solution, while at the same time boosting the profits of its main source of non-government funding, Big Pharma.
"We have surely reached a precipice when THT, via Hardcell.org.uk, and GMFA, via its fundraising links with club nights like Filth and Central Station, are effectively endorsing and promoting environments and behaviours that are recreating the same conditions that existed in the bath houses and sex dens of New York and San Francisco in the early 1980s while simultaneously neglecting the educational needs of under-25s who are barebacking in ignorance."
~ Gary Leigh [Disco Damaged, November 2009]
"The AIDS charities nowadays seem more concerned with marketing their own services for HIV+ men and there aren't any campaigns dealing with the rise in barebacking, safer sex promotion or meth use to protect negative men."
~ David [Manchester scene-goer]
"No Condoms. No sex. Period. This simple mantra will stop HIV in its tracks, despite the best attempts of certain HIV and gay men’s health advisors to overcomplicate this for their own ends or oppose this in order to ensure future service-users."
~ Cass Mann [Positively Healthy]
HIV antiretroviral sales across the seven major markets of the US, Japan, France, Germany, Spain, Italy and the UK totalled $11.8bn (£7.6bn) in 2009, according to figures from the research firm Datamonitor...
Figures from the Campaign Finance Institute and Centre for Public Integrity reveal that $158 million was spent by drug companies to lobby the US federal government alone in 2004, $17 million was given in campaign donations (67% to Republicans), and $7.3 million was spent on political party conventions (64% going to the Republicans). $1m was given to the presidential campaign of George Bush and $1.5m to John Kerry. Big Parma has around 1,300 lobbyists in Washington - more than two for every member of Congress...
"You can hardly swing a cat in that town without hitting a pharmaceutical lobbyist."
~ Chuck Grassley [Senate Finance Committee Chairman]
It is a sombre fact that Big Pharma makes infinitely more money drugging the infected and treating the symptoms of disease than it ever would dispensing cures, and that, 29 years into an epidemic that should long before now have been contained and curtailed, three times as many UK MSM are seroconverting than in 1996 - the year HIV drugs started being prescribed. This appalling tally is the same worldwide wherever bureaucratised, corruptible HIV agencies have allowed themselves to become mere public relations conduits that place the interests of outside bodies like Big Pharma and central government above those of the communities they profess to serve.
"The main beneficiaries of this quarter century-long AIDS catastrophe have been pharmaceutical companies which, despite the odd gesture, continue to manoeuvre to protect patents and profits at the expense of the poor."
~ Peter Gill [Body Count: How they turned AIDS into a Catastrophe]
Big Pharma reaps huge dividends from AID$ Inc.'s over-zealous emphasis on, and promotion and management of, the drugs on which HIVers become dependent for life - it costs $618,000 to treat just one newly-diagnosed 21-year-old HIV patient to age 45 - and its targeting of HIV post-exposure with unproven toxic drugs like PEP while paying lip service to educating effectively about the causes. It is a collusion that drains public cash and saddles society with an easily preventable disease.
"The idea that HIV bureaucrats and modern medicine promoters are living in a different reality is not far from the truth. They're simply operating on a system of false beliefs and circular reasoning that justifies their efforts to protect Big Pharma profits by exploiting, misleading and directly harming the public."
~ Paul Clifton [UK.Gay.Com boards]
"The medications available are hailed as the answer to everyone's prayers where HIV is concerned, until you realise that their funding comes from cash-starved NHS trusts desperate to balance the books while, in London, faceless suits are deciding which drugs can be used to treat HIV based solely on the cost of the treatment."
~ Plus-v-e Magazine
"Most [HIVers in the UK] are experiencing increased levels of deprivation... There's a loss to the economy of this group's productivity. There's an anecdotal figure for the cost of providing treatment to the NHS, which I've been advised not to reproduce here. Suffice to say, it's huge. Reducing the number of people living with HIV in the long-term will reduce the bill of HIV treatment, lost man-hours to the economy and reduce social welfare benefits being claimed by this group. This isn't rocket science."
~ Robin Brady [Chief Executive, Crusaid]
"The drug companies, the AIDS scientists, the World Health Organisation...all have gained [from HIV] except for HIV/AIDS patients and their loved ones, and the taxpayer. Some drug companies have become very rich with happy stock-holders. AIDS is a billion dollar business, and the big AIDS research money [in the US] is handed out exclusively by the Pentagon; another reason to suspect a tie of AIDS to military biological warfare research."
~ Alan Cantwell, MD [Aries Rising Press]
Therein lies the rub: because there's no financial incentive or sustainability in stemming the spread of HIV, the virus itself has become the market-driven HIV sector's lifeblood, with HIV- men these days eyed more as potential, lucrative future service users; human fodder instead of human beings in need of effective, plain-speaking HIV prevention campaigns and initiatives around correlated and causative health risks.
"Prevention is an immensely cost-effective activity… one HIV transmission is up to £360,000 in direct costs to the NHS."
~ Deborah Jack [The National AIDS Trust]
"AIDS activist Michael Cottrell asked an extremely pertinent question of the Chairman of UK Coalition
concerning pharmaceutical company advertising in its publication Positive Nation: why did these companies not equally advertise and promote condom usage in the aggressive way they market their antiretrovirals?"
~ Cass Mann [Positively Healthy]
"My hope was one of the AIDS organisations would take the issue up and ask drug companies to assist us in stopping the spread of HIV. Instead they are hell bent on securing for the drug companies ever increasing profits. So certain is the trend in HIV infection in gay men with [AID$ Inc.] exercising absolute power over the AIDS and gay communities and gay press, one could easily write to the Financial Times and recommend pharmaceuticals as a sure-fire share tip."
~ Michael Cottrell [UK.Gay.Com discussion board]
Just as there's no long-term profit or sustainability in curing society's ills as it dispenses life-prolonging treatments in the West - propelled by dishonest ads that portray users of HIV antiretrovirals as impossibly blemish-free superbeings - while steadfastly resisting calls for cheaper, generic versions to be made available to impoverished, under-developed nations (scandals that AID$ Inc.'s silence is complicit in aiding), HIV has become a golden egg for Big Pharma on a par with the diabetes and cancer industries.
AIDS drugs are to Big Pharma what chemotherapy is to cancer; highly toxic treatments which sustain and often deteriorate the patient's condition while reaping enormous profits for their makers, who continue to feebly lament "no cure in sight".
"I have long thought that the medical establishment... feels it is best served by keeping people sick rather than healing them. Look at diabetes, as a cynic. What a wonderful disease! A diabetic will live a fully normal life, just spending thousands of dollars a year in doctor's visits and medications, eventually succumbing to the disease, but not until spending tens of thousands of dollars to combat the symptoms."
~ Steve Runyan [Kombucha answers]
"In an ideal world, health and research should be the responsibility of the state and not a private task of profit-oriented pharmaceutical industries... Many times I have seen a CEO or President of a pharma decide not to investigate a promising medication due to the long-
term lack of investment it may offer... We must be thankful to those pharmaceutical companies who understand that HIV patents are not pill-boxes, but human beings who deserve a normal life."
~ Filippo von Schloesser [HIV/AIDS specialist]
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