Jacob on being the first transgender man for our campaign
‘There is a lot of fear, stigma and misinformation about HIV which adds up to people being complacent.’
HIV can affect absolutely anyone, and Jacob is a proud advocate of sharing that message. As the first transgender man to be the face of the It Starts With Me campaign, he’s leading the way for more mainstream LGBT+ representation and speaking out to his community about the issues that matter most to him.
‘I feel that as an LGBTQ person, HIV/AIDS is a big part of the story of my ancestry and living history, and I feel we can honour that history today by working towards a world free of new transmissions.’
Jacob first appeared in the campaign in 2016 and had an enormous impact on the LGBT+ community, with many other transgender influencers coming forward on social media to support Jacob and his story, and share their own. Jacob understands the impact equal representation can have, and understands in particular that it can be difficult for transgender people to seek help regarding their sexual health.
‘The trans community in particular are prone to not getting sexual health checks enough. It can be a challenging experience for lots of reasons. You worry about whether the professional you are seeing will treat you with respect, whether they will know enough about your anatomy to get it right, or whether you will have to do a lot of explaining. It can be really difficult.’
Having LGBT+ role models like Jacob is crucial for this reason, and it is our hope that we can make our efforts more inclusive of everyone by continuing to diversify the campaign. We want everyone to be able to see themselves in the campaign to help them understand that HIV really can affect anyone.
‘I think that a lot of people still have an “it won’t happen to me” attitude to HIV. I know many people who are worried about their status but are too afraid to get checked, they shrug it off and continue as normal. There is a lot of fear, stigma and misinformation about HIV which adds up to people being complacent.’
Jacob has the full support of his friends, family and colleagues, and wants to continue to be involved with the campaign and set a positive example for everyone – particularly other transgender individuals.
‘If you are trans, and you are putting off an HIV test, I would urge you to seek out a friendly clinic. Remember an HIV test doesn’t involve a physical examination and knowing your status is really positive because it allows you to lead a long and healthy life through treatment. I would recommend Clinic T in Brighton or Clinic Q in London for any trans person who is worried about their sexual health and needs a friendly and open service.’