When I was still some years shy of what was then the age of consent for gay men, I went to a nightclub in the heart of London, picked up a 32-year old American man, went back to his hotel room and had sex. About a week later I watched a BBC documentary investigating a new virus, then known as HTLV III, which was affecting gay men, particularly in New York and San Francisco. There was no cure and large numbers were dying. Men were urged not to have sex with men from America. It was a bumpy start to my life as a gay man.

GMFA was founded in 1992, so when I joined, way back in 1999, it had been going for just under seven years. I was still relatively young then so for me this felt like forever. Although by this point we did have effective treatment, HIV-related sickness and death were still common themes in our lives. At the time I had been diagnosed with HIV for about eight months.

At my job interview I pretended to be cooler about that diagnosis than I actually was. I thought that I probably had about 20 years left to live and I wanted to do some good in that time. GMFA was the obvious place to work. It was the charity that I related to. It was smart, direct and unapologetic for celebrating gay sexuality and gay sex.

The world has changed enormously since that time. Our progress towards LGBT equality is a part of that but there have also been significant changes in sexual health. HIV is now a long-term, eminently treatable condition. We know now that people with HIV who are on effective treatment are not infectious. We have PEP. At some point we will have PrEP.

But the challenges have evolved as well.

The effectiveness of treatment has an impact on the value that men place on sexual safety. Greater social acceptance and dating apps mean that we now have a much more diffuse gay scene and our traditional gay spaces are under threat. Concerns around other STIs get ignored because energy has been concentrated into the efforts of tackling ‘the big one’. As a community we still struggle to adequately address the inequalities that gay men experience in mental and emotional health that contribute not only to unsafe sexual behaviour, but also to damaging levels of drug and alcohol use.

Constant reorganisation of public health budgets haven’t disguised the fact that pretty much year on year less money is spent on HIV prevention. The UK spends 50 times more on HIV treatment than we spend on prevention.

At GMFA we have always managed to make a little money go a long way. Frequently I meet people whose imagination of GMFA is as a huge organisation, rather than just a few of us, sitting in an office, typing frantically. Through our website and FS, and our social media, a small charity like ours can reach hundreds of thousands of gay and bisexual men, the kind of numbers that we only dreamed about when we were trudging around bars with clipboards.

After 17 amazing years, more than half my adult life, it’s now time for me to move on to new challenges and opportunities. I’m really happy that my colleague Ian Howley, who has helped shape FS into the compelling and vital resource that it now is, will be taking over from me at GMFA. Ian’s passion for improving the mental health of LGBT people will I believe open up new possibilities for the organisation, at a time when HIV prevention funding is drying up but the health inequalities experienced by gay men persist.

I’m enormously proud of GMFA’s ability to engage gay men with information about sexual health, to challenge HIV-related stigma and to open up debates about chems, racism and the way that our community looks after or its own (or sometimes fails to). I’m indebted to all of my colleagues at GMFA throughout the years, both volunteers and staff, who have taught me so much and inspired me with their talent, wisdom and passion.

I’m still passionate about the work that GMFA does. Every month over 100,000 gay men get information from the GMFA and FS websites, but these resources still receive no Government funding. I believe it’s crucial that our community can access information that is not only frank, honest and reliable but that doesn’t judge gay men for our sexual choices.

So if, like me, you believe that sexual health information for gay men should acknowledge that our sex is nothing to be ashamed of, and that gay men’s health should be valued, I hope that (like me) you will support this work by making a regular monthly donation to GMFA.

I’m English enough to feel embarrassed asking for money when it’s contributing to my own salary. Now that I am no longer on the payroll I can say without hesitation: this work is too valuable to be lost.

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