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Annual Review 2002-2003

The Testing Barriers Project

The Testing Barriers Project was set up in May 2002 with funding fro NHS Lothian to tackle HIV stigma and discrimination on the commercial gay scene and other barriers which prevent gay and bisexual men from having an HIV test. During its first 12 months the project has focussed on five main areas of work.


  • In partnership with Glasgow Caledonian University research was carried out on the commercial gay scene in Edinburgh targeting 300 gay men and focussing on attitudes to HIV testing and experience of prejudice and discrimination.

  • Some of the main findings of the research were:

  • A higher percentage of men reported having had an HIV test than when previous research was carried out in 1999. However, almost 40% of the gay men who took part in the survey had never had an HIV test.

  • The men who took part tended to agree that there were many benefits to testing with over 70% agreeing that having an HIV test can put your mind at rest and 55% agreeing that having a test can help you plan your life.

  • Discrimination on the gay scene towards people with HIV was also given as an important reason for not having a test. Many men believed that stigma and discrimination could be avoided by not having a test therefore not knowing their HIV status.

  • The vast majority of men thought that gay men with HIV were discriminated against on the gay scene, by potential sex partners and by other gay men.

  • Over half of the men who took part in the survey said they were unsure if their friends had had an HIV test indicating that having a test is not something that most gay men talk about with their friends. There appears to be stigma attached even to having a test.

Stage 2 of the research will be carried out this year and the results will provide comparative data and form part of the evaluation of the project.

Involving Volunteers

Volunteers play a central role in all aspects of the work of the project. Training sessions have been provided on research interviewing, the pros and cons of HIV testing and the effects of HIV stigma and discrimination. Volunteers participated in a weekend training event on HIV stigma which was also attended by gay men with HIV (see below).

Peer educators have been given further training on the effects of HIV stigma, prejudice and discrimination and carry out targeted peer education sessions in the Edinburgh gay venues and on the internet supervised by Community Development Manager at Gay Men's Health.

Training for Bar Staff

Bar staff in gay venues are seen as key communicators on the gay scene and, as such, have a unique role in addressing issues of prejudice and discrimination on the commercial scene. Training has been provided for those staff on the effects of HIV stigma on gay men’s health. The training covers the pros and cons of HIV testing, the barriers which prevent some gay men from having an HIV test and how to challenge the HIV stigma and prejudice.

Staff from three of the city’s gay venues have attended the training sessions and further sessions are planned this year.

Involving gay men with HIV

A unique weekend training event was held in February 2003 for gay men living with HIV and Gay Men's Health volunteers to examine issues of HIV stigma and prejudice and how to tackle issues of HIV discrimination. The weekend provided an opportunity for links to develop between GMH volunteers and gay and bisexual men with HIV and a safe space, within the residential setting for gay and bisexual men with HIV to develop peer support around coping with the effects of stigma and discrimination. The weekend also provided an opportunity to increase participants’ ability to deal effectively with the personal and community impact of stigma and discrimination.

Feedback from participants was very positive and the weekend provided the basis for further training for peer educators in their work of raising issues of stigma and discrimination on the gay scene in Edinburgh and in their work on the Internet. A follow up residential weekend is being planned for spring, 2004.

Health promotion on the commercial gay scene

The project has produced a leaflet, “Testing Times” on HIV testing with locally based information relevant to gay and bisexual men living in Edinburgh and the Lothians. The leaflet contains information on the pros and cons of having an HIV test, what is involved in having a test and how to go about being tested in Edinburgh and the Lothians.

To coincide with this year’s Pride which took place in Edinburgh, the project co-ordinated a series of health promotion events under the banner “Life Stuff 03” which focussed on the theme of HIV stigma as a barrier to testing. All of the gay venues in Edinburgh displayed posters and information challenging HIV prejudice, and GMH volunteers distributed over 1,000 “Testing Times” leaflets and spoke to customers in the commercial venues about the pros and cons of HIV testing.

Further health promotion events on the theme of HIV testing are planned for next year.

Steve O’Donnell
Project Manager, Testing Barriers Project
August 2003

Annual Review 2002-2003

> Introduction
> Community Development
> Core Magazine
> Counselling
> Events and Resources
> Fatigue
> Figures
> Testing Barriers Project



Last updated 14th July 2004

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