Tuesday 22 May 2007

Not So Gay Health

We are only beginning to take the health needs of gay men seriously, in resent years, and our health service has just begun to resource it. In London we have been extremely fortunate, since 2001 we have had London Gay Men’s HIV Prevention Programme, a health programme that works across all London boroughs to target Gay Men’s HIV needs, it has used different routes to get its message across. These have included leafleting gay venues, media adverts, publications, health workshops and specific campaigns. Well, now all this good work is in danger.

There is a proposal that will completely change how health promotion is delivered to gay men, a proposal that will STOP all the good work that is now being done and replace it with a strategy that is almost guaranteed to fail before it has begun.

It is proposed that the ONLY health intervention for gay men in London will be health interviews. It is intended that every gay will have a one-to-one interview, were their health and sexual activity will be record, they will then be “advised” on safer-sex issue. These interviews will not conducted by healthcare professional but by volunteers, recruited from men who have previously been interviewed.

There will be not leaflets, media adverts, campaigns or publications, only these interviews.

The intention is that 100% of gay men in London will interviewed, anyone who has taken part in any research study will tell that getting 50% response is a near miracle – a 100% is impossible. They carried out a pilot study for this proposal in Greenwich, it cost £50,000 and only 8 men came forward and took part.

The information from the interview will be recorded and can be used by other agencies, surely that is enough to put off a lot of men from coming forward. Even here in London, there are a lot of gay men who are not open or able to be open about their sexuality. The present approach, of different methods of delivery of the information, can reach these men because they don’t have to come out to access it. This safety net will be gone if this proposal goes forward.

This proposal will set back Gay Men’s Health to the last century, all the good work that has been done since 2001 will be lost.

You can read the full proposal at: http://www.kc-pct.nhs.uk/pdfs/userUploaded/LondonGayMensHIVpreventionprogram.doc

Please, please email your MP and ask them to raise questions about this crazy proposal in Parliament, we need to stop this before it destroys gay men’s access to good Health Promotion. If you don’t know who your MP is you can find out at: http://www.upmystreet.com/commons/l/

If you want a draft letter to send to your MP just let me know, I can let you have a copy of one a friend at GMFA has already drawn up.

Please help out with this very important issue.


Thursday 17 May 2007

Come and See

I’m sure I’m not the only one who finds this but blogs can be very addictive, checking out other people’s profiles, reading other people’s blogs, watching all those videos. Well, I’m not the only person in our household who’s addicted to blogs, I’ve got my partner Martin into it.

He’s a very good photographer, well I think so, he’s been taking them for several years now and the quality of them has certainly improved. He has an eye for framing a picture, for capturing an interesting image from the ordinary things we encounter. He’s started a MySpace profile as a showcase for his photography. I’ve included one of his pictures with this blog (See right).

Please check out his profile, http://www.myspace.com/peachedragon , and the pictures he’s already posted there, http://viewmorepics.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=user.viewPicture&friendID=190592143&albumId=0 .


Tuesday 15 May 2007

It’s All Swings and Roundabouts

Sometimes it all feels like swings and roundabouts, something good happens and then it’s knocked back by something bad (or just not good). Call it Karma, call it Natural Law, call it “Oh, great…” but it does seem to happen a lot.

Yesterday I had an article accepted for publication and inside twelve hours later I was told that a short story, I sent to a different publication, had been rejected. So often the negative can knock the shine off something positive, but I have to hold onto the positive otherwise I won’t be able to get out of bed in the morning.

The positive is that Nursing Standard have accepted the article I sent to them, they accepted it with almost no changes needed (some publications change what I write so much you’d never guess that I had written it). Good old Nursing Standard have been so good to me. The down side is the subject of the article, it is an advice article for nurses who are looking at redundancy. Nurses are now being made redundant, what is our society coming to? There is a shortage of nurses in this country, we haven’t been training enough nurses for years and we actually recruit (poach) them from other countries, and now nurses are being made redundant. And the government tries to tell us that the Health Service is the best it has ever been, all I’m feeling is déjà vu because this was happening fifteen years ago.


Friday 11 May 2007

Mr Brown Is Coming To Town.

Yesterday Tony Blair finally announced the date when he will step down as Prime Minister, 27th June 2007. This has run and run far longer then must soap opera story lines, Blair announced that he would step down months ago but refused to name the date so everything has been up in the air. Well, finally all the speculation is over and it all feels like such an anti-climax.

I voted for Labour, in 1997, when this government was first elected and back then it actually felt like something different was happening. We had a new Government, a big change from the Tories who’d been in power for so long they’d grown arrogant and corrupt with power. It was as if we actually had the chance to turn back the huge social divide that the Tories had fostered.

Its ten years later and Tony Blair & Labour have been in power continually since then, but I can’t say that Britain is a wonderfully better place for it. Labour has done a lot of good, we now have previously undreamed of gay rights in this country. When I was coming out, back in the dark 1980’s, I would never have imagined that we’d have anything like Civil Partnerships or the protections we now enjoy. They also passed the Human Rights Act, finally giving us rights under the law. But homophobia is still a big problem, we are seeing the rise of the far right and the Christian right. Trying to find a home is still a nightmare, there is still a chronic shortage of affordable housing – especially here in London. Labour is now marred in the sandals and in-fighting that marked the Tories last years in office – power does corrupt.

When Tony Blair was first elected I was an NHS Ward Nurse and there was a big hope that the NHS was going to get the resources and respect that it was crying out for. At first, there were some good chances, NHS Walk-In Centres and NHS Direct were new and radical yet greatly needed, but soon things swung in the opposite direction. We were given league tables that pitched hospitals against each other for funding, the same as the Tories did the Internal Market, yet none of the disastrous changes the Tories brought in have been corrected. Now we have sight of hospitals massively in debt, wards and units closing and nurses being made redundant – something I thought we’d never seen again when the Tories lost power.

Tony Blair’s legacy will certainly be the war in Iraq, whether you agreed with it or not it has proved a terrible disaster, but I think his legacy should be something else. Tony Blair has managed to move politics in this country, instead of having Labour on the left wing and the Tories on the right wing; we now have two centre parties, two parties only slightly apart. Ten years of Tony Blair and now we can barely tell the different between Labour and the Tories.

What will happen with Gordon Brown?


Thursday 10 May 2007

Busy, Busy, Busy.

I’ve been kept busy, this last week, writing. It is amazing what a new injection of life my creative energies have received since we moved here, not least to say how easy it is to write now that I have the space to do so. I now spend several hours a day writing. This week alone I have sent off ten short stories and articles to different publications. Unfortunately, I’ve heard nothing back from them. Now begins that awful waiting game, which can go on for months, as I am at the mercy of ten different editors. I wish there was a quick way to do this but, in general, editors seem to take an age to decide anything and even longer to tell you.

I’ve also been busy writing for Nursing Standard. I’ve finished one review (the book was crap and very prejudiced which made writing the review bloody hard, I just wanted to put “Don’t read this rubbish!”), am preparing an article to submit to them and am about to start another book review for them (hopefully this book looks a lot more interesting).

I continue to write Flash Fiction and am getting some very positive feedback from that. I’m putting together three Flash Fiction stories to submit for an anthology, so here’s fingers crossed over that.

Here are links to some previous pieces I’ve had published by Nursing Standard.

This is the editorial I wrote, for Lesbian & Gay History Month, the first time I was guest editor:

This is one of the articles I’ve had published in their Careers section, it is about career progression:

Here’s a listing of some of the other articles I’ve had published with them:


Thursday 3 May 2007

Under The Radar.

Yesterday, 1st May 2007, The Equality Bill came into law, here in Britain. It makes illegal to refuse to offer anyone a public service on grounds of their sexuality. Therefore anyone providing a public service (not just the Public Sector, but anyone, whether they’re a shopkeeper, hotelier, running any sort of business that looks to the general public as costumers) can not turn someone away because of their sexuality. But if you had been following the media you’d never knew because there was barely a whisper about it being finally passed into law.

Earlier this year we saw the ugly sight of the Church of England, the Catholic Church and almost every other Christian group in the country opposing this bill. They claimed (untruthfully) that this bill was prejudiced against them (Sic!) because it gave equal rights to Lesbians and Gay Men. They wanted the right to carry on using their traditional homophobia, as if this was “right” and equality for Lesbians and Gay Men was “wrong”. Well, all the emotional blackmail and downright lies of these religious groups came to nothing and the Equality Bill is now law.

I have this to say to all those Christians who predicted that the Equality Bill would destroy our society, it has been law for one whole day and I see no cracks appearing in our society...


Be Healthy and Eat Right.

The latest edition of FS Magazine is out (http://www.gmfa.org.uk/londonservices/fsmagazine/index ), and is also available for download as a PDF file. If you turn to page 26 you’ll find “Keep Your Balance”, an article by me about eating a Balanced Diet and what exactly that is.

FS Magazine is a health magazine, in the vein of Men’s Health and those sort of publications, but aimed at gay men. It’s given away free all over London, but can also be downloaded from the above link. Its editorial line is that gay men need a good quality advice on all aspects of their lives, not just the single subject of safer sex. That’s not to say safer sex and HIV/AIDS prevention are ignored, but that’s only one part of gay men’s health needs. FS Magazine covers everything from relationships to sport, from sex to healthy living and everything in-between. It’s an approach that I, as a nurse, fully agree with.

I’ve been writing for FS Magazine for two years now and have found it one of the best and beneficial writing experience so far. In that time I have learnt how to put an article together and how to pitch it for a targeted readership, I’ve also learnt how to get my information across without sounding patronising or talking down to the readers – a lesson worth its weight in gold. Cary James, FS Magazine’s editor, has been a great help and encouragement to me. He’s the type of editor who supports a writer, not the type who sends out two line rejections that give no hints on how a piece can be improved.

I first meet Cary many years ago when he was editor of The Pink Paper and interviewed me about my experiences, as a teenager, of the ex-gay movement. Now he’s an editor I writer regularly for. I find it strange and fascinating how people seem to come around in circles in my life. I meet them, some times only once, loss touch and then years later I meet into them again. For me, the world can seem a very small place.