AIDS Concern has stopped providing HIV tests for heterosexual males after the Hong Kong government stopped allocating it funds for prevention work among heterosexuals this year.
In a statement posted last month, the NGO said that it would stop providing the tests on June 1. “AIDS Concern will still provide emotional support and counselling for people in needed,” it added.
AIDS Concern provided a list of seven clinics run by the Department of Health and two NGOs – Hong Kong AIDS Foundation and CHOICE – that may also offer tests.
A spokesperson for AIDS Concern told HKFP that the NGO writes a detailed proposal to the Department of Health’s AIDS Trust Fund every year for funding to conduct HIV-related work among three categories of people: homosexuals, heterosexuals and persons who have already contracted the virus.
A key factor on how much funding the NGO would receive for each group is the number of new cases recorded, said the spokesperson.
According to the Department of Health, the number of new reported cases of HIV in Hong Kong contracted through homosexual intercourse steadily increased over the past decade to a total of 378 last year. The number of new cases contracted through heterosexual intercourse has remained stable, at 145 last year. Statistics since 1984 suggest that males are four times as likely to contract the virus.
The spokesperson said AIDS Concern was informed of the denial of funds around April: “We were surprised… we didn’t expect [the funds] would be cut to zero.”
He said that the NGO would continue to conduct other forms of prevention or promotional work for heterosexual communities, albeit with limited funds.
He did not know whether other NGOs – such as Hong Kong AIDS Foundation and CHOICE – faced the same cuts in funding.
However, he added that NGOs like AIDS Concern play an important role in complementing government clinics for HIV prevention work because of their flexibility and sensitivity to specific high-risk communities.
“We will usually try to walk one step ahead of the government,” he said, citing the example of the NGO’s advocacy of using the new Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) HIV prevention drug. “But if you are the government, you must take into account many factors… and maybe collect more scientific data, and we understand that.”
A spokesperson for the AIDS Trust Fund told HKFP that the factors considered in approving an funding application include whether the proposed budget is reasonable and cost-effective, and whether expenses are justified. The spokesperson did not directly comment on the case of AIDS Concern.