Focus: Finance and Governance - Trustee talk - George Davies, Herpes Viruses Association

I have been a trustee and honorary treasurer of the Herpes Viruses Association since 1994, when I was introduced by a girlfriend.

She had had a bad time when she caught herpes, long before she met me.

If you caught it in the early 1980s, you were the scourge of society.

She told me about her volunteer work answering the helpline, and took me along to HVA social seminar events.

When I discovered how difficult it was for HVA to get trustees, I volunteered. But I didn't realise then how hard it would be to attract funding because of the stigma associated with herpes simplex (genital and cold sores).

It takes a broad-minded charitable trust to donate to a group for people who have had sex and caught something. A few charitable trusts have donated, but we will need to take £28,000 from our reserves to balance our books this year.

The helpline volunteers do a fantastic job supplying information and counselling people, but we have only three office staff to produce leaflets and journals and to keep the website up to date.

Fundraising can be hard for us. Members will not sell raffle tickets, rattle tins or hold events because they are sure people will think that it is because they have genital herpes. We point out that not all sellers and rattlers for HIV or cancer have HIV or cancer, but this cuts no ice.

Most of our funding is from members - subscriptions and donations are sometimes sent in as postal orders so they can remain anonymous. We receive only £25,000 from the Department of Health, which told us when we met to discuss funding that our service-users should pay.

And corporate funding is out of the question - companies want cuddly causes. Promoting people with herpes simplex won't impress their customers.

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