We started something

19 July 2017

We started something

Takudzwa Mukiwa, Health Improvement Specialist at Terrence Higgins Trust, reveals some of the trends in HIV testing and treatment.

Together we are stopping HIV. We’re testing more, starting HIV treatment sooner, using condoms – and taking PrEP and HIV rates are starting to fall. Last year there was a 17% drop in new diagnoses amongst gay and bisexual men across England.

Here is what’s making a difference.

1. We’re testing more

  • 300,000 more HIV tests were done in 2015 than 2012.
  • 87% of people who have HIV know they have it.

Testing regularly is the best thing you can do for your health. If you have HIV, then the sooner you know the better because early treatment means that HIV won’t damage your health or shorten your life.

While we are testing more, about 13% of people living with HIV in the UK are not aware they have it.

Most people get HIV from someone who doesn’t realise they have it. If more people test and get the medication they need we could dramatically cut the numbers who get HIV in the future.

Testing is free, fast, confidential and simple. You can even do it at home.

Find out if you need to test.
Find a testing option that might be suitable for you.

2. We’re starting HIV treatment sooner

  • More people are getting HIV treatment when they need it.
  • 96% of people with diagnosed HIV were on treatment in 2015.
  • 94% of people living with HIV in the UK who are on treatment have an undetectable viral load.

The sooner someone with HIV starts treatment, the better it is for their health. Treatment can also reduce the amount of HIV in the body to levels at which HIV cannot be passed on.

3. We’re using condoms and PrEP

Most new infections come from unprotected sex with someone who doesn’t know they have HIV – so we all need to look after ourselves.

Condoms are the best barrier against HIV, other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and unplanned pregnancies.

Find the best condom for you.

For some of us who are more exposed to HIV, pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) can provide extra protection against HIV. PrEP is when someone who doesn’t have HIV takes medication to protect themselves from getting it. PrEP does not protect against other STIs or unplanned pregnancy.

For up-to-date information on PrEP, visit the Terrence Higgins Trust website.

We can stop HIV, but it takes each of us to make it happen.

‘I thought that HIV was a thing of the past. I thought that it didn’t happen to young people.’

18 April 2017

George

George was diagnosed with HIV at a young age and although he found it difficult at first, he went on to become an incredible HIV activist, successful blogger and talented performer. Speaking now about his experience, George shares his story and talks about how he came to terms with living with HIV.

‘I was diagnosed when I was still at college. I didn’t know how to deal with it, so I went into self-destruction mode. I thought that HIV was still a thing of the past, something that happened in the eighties. I thought that it didn’t happen to young people.’

George put off going on medication until he learned about how he could become undetectable and what that would mean for his health and his well-being.

‘I had no idea what undetectable meant before I was diagnosed; I learned about it for the first time when I started medication. It can be a difficult thing to explain, a lot of people get confused about how I still have HIV even though it is undetectable in my body.’

Being undetectable is where HIV medication causes the virus in a person’s body to be suppressed to levels where it can no longer be detected. This means the person can continue to live a healthy life and not worry about passing the virus on to others.

‘It’s really reassuring to know I’m undetectable. HIV was an unwanted gift but being undetectable means I’m not infectious and I can’t transmit HIV. It means my immune system is healthy, it means I am living well, and it means I’m not putting anyone else at risk.’

George now lives a healthy and happy life and is dedicated to educating others. He got involved with the Youth Stop AIDS speaker tour and toured the country with other activists, speaking to students and parliament about his experience and how HIV is still an issue affecting many people today.

Soon afterwards, he started writing a blog where he writes about his experiences of living with HIV in the hope that it will help educate others. He continues working with many HIV and sexual health organisations and jumped at the chance of becoming an ambassador for It Starts With Me.

‘The It Starts With Me campaign is so important because of the conversations that it creates. Since I’ve been involved people have asked me questions about all sorts of things related to HIV. I’m proud to be someone that they can reach out to in order to seek advice and knowledge. Education is the key to ending the negative stigma which still surrounds HIV today. We all need to know the facts in order to get rid of the myths.’

What you can do:

Find out when you should test for HIV
Find a testing option suitable for you
Find the best condom for you
Order a free postal test

Ade, a broadcaster helping the conversation on HIV testing

5 April 2017

AdeFor Ade, HIV is a very important subject that needs more awareness and he aims to use his work as a radio and TV broadcaster to help get more people tested for HIV.

‘One of the greatest things about what I do as a broadcaster is that I can reach out and inspire other people.

‘I had my first ever HIV test on air while hosting a TV show and it was easy and quick. I was initially nervous but managed to do it. The kind or relief and empowerment you get from whatever the result is, nothing beats that. ‘

Ade, who is also a family man and avid sports enthusiast, received a lot of messages via social media following his on-air HIV test. The messages were a mixture of those that were supportive, some questioning his motivation for taking the test on air and others asking why he felt he needed to test in the first place. Though the test broadcast in 2014, Ade still has people talking to him about it to this day which has made him keen to continue discussing the importance of HIV testing.

‘Some people are scared of taking the test simply because they are worried about having a positive result. Unfortunately we still have a lot of stigma around HIV with some people still seeing it as a death sentence. This is no longer true with the advancement of treatment.

‘Some of my friends have raised an eyebrow to my involvement thinking perhaps there is a bit more to me getting involved than just wanting to help spread the word. It’s intriguing to see their facial expressions when I bang on about the importance of getting tested.

‘You don’t need to have HIV yourself to talk about it. We can all benefit from talking about it more and encouraging each other to get tested.’

What you can do:

Find out when you should test for HIV
Find a testing option suitable for you
Find the best condom for you
Order a free postal test

‘I’m not a fighter, I’m a normal guy who would like to see the end of HIV’

1 March 2017

JoanJoan is a proud advocate and supporter of the It Starts With Me campaign, and as a passionate filmmaker he’s using his voice and his work to help make a difference in the way people think about protecting themselves from HIV.

‘See the world, change the world. We have to lead the change instead of just waiting for it to happen. We can write a new page in LGBT history if we play safe, if we know our status, and we are responsible. It has to start with us.’

Originally living in Spain, Joan now leads a happy and successful life in Manchester, and as no stranger to the LGBT+ scene he urges his peers on the importance of personal responsibility. ‘It is in our hands. Nobody can force us to be safe and use protection. It’s us that have the power to bring a stop to HIV.’

‘People think it’s negative to talk about getting tested, but I think it’s great. In the same way people take care to talk about their bodies and their food – why can’t we speak about our status?’

There may still be a negative stigma associated with HIV, but Joan believes this is outdated and is a proud and outspoken ambassador for the campaign.

‘My family and friends weren’t surprised that I took part in this campaign. They know I like to live a healthy lifestyle, and getting tested is part of that. It’s something I encourage everyone to do.’

‘I think people have forgotten how bad HIV was. We don’t like to think about the past, we’re too focussed on the present. That’s why I think the It Starts With Me campaign is so important. We still need that reminder so that we can create a better future.’

The idea of striving for a better future is something that runs passionately through everything Joan does. He has a deep respect for LGBT+ history and is determined to use his influence to improve the lives of his peers.

‘My new project is about focussing on the past and the present to look for a better future. Talking to LGBT+ people has made me realise how lucky we are to be able to hold hands in the street, go out to gay clubs, and have good safe sex.’

What you can do:

Find out when you should test for HIV

Find a testing option suitable for you

Find the best condom for you

Order a free postal test

Why I’m taking part: Yvette

3 February 2017

Yvette
‘I feel confident about testing and I go to the sexual health clinic regularly, every three months or so.’

Yvette started supporting the It Starts With Me campaign a few years ago after seeing some of the campaign adverts. She was particularly inspired by the campaign’s use of real people and their stories to address HIV. Yvette is now one of the people featuring in the campaign and here she speaks about why it matters so much to her:

‘I made the decision get involved in this campaign because I am from Rwanda where a lot of people are living with HIV, and I also know people here in the UK who are affected by it.

‘Unfortunately HIV is always linked to stigma, it has always been a taboo. If you talk about HIV around some people they think you are sleeping around. However, it shouldn’t have this stigma – I feel confident about testing and I go to the sexual health clinic regularly, every three months or so.

‘I work for the TV channel VoxAfrica and so when I heard about the campaign, I approached Terrence Higgins Trust to see if we could help promote it to our viewers and I’ve been involved ever since. I love the posts by regular people all over the UK talking about testing. Sometimes, you see people you know – last year my colleague had her picture taken wearing the It Starts With Me T-shirt. The real people and real voices are my favourite part of the campaign as it helps people realise we all have a role to play.’

What you can do:

Find out when you should test for HIV

Find a testing option suitable for you

Find the best condom for you

Order a free postal test

Jacob on being the first transgender man for our campaign

25 January 2017

Jacob

‘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.’

What you can do:

Find out when you should test for HIV

Find a testing option suitable for you

Find the best condom for you

Order a free postal test

It Starts With Nana

19 September 2016

‘I’m very passionate about HIV prevention because I’m from one of the most affected communities.’isaac_tht-600x300

What inspires someone to battle stigma head on and model for a high profile HIV campaign?

Meet Nana Bonsu, a self-employed 34-year-old from London and one of the real people featuring in the HIV prevention campaign It Starts With Me. The campaign features real people sharing their personal stories on HIV and will appear across England on billboards, public transport, social media and in the press. Nana explained his motivations for getting involved.

‘I’m very passionate about HIV prevention because I’m from one of the most affected communities and I make it a point to test for HIV every 12 months. I know many people who suffer from the illness or who have died out of a lack of information.’

‘I feel personally obliged because someone has to take the responsibility to talk about it. I think the It Starts With Me campaign is a platform where a whole group of people can come together and change the way HIV is viewed.’

The campaign aims to show that HIV is not something to be feared, but is something each of us can control in our own lives through regular HIV testing and using condoms.

‘If people get tested and they find out that they are positive; they get help, they get treatment. If they test and are negative, they can seek to remain negative,’ Nana added.

One in six people living with HIV in the UK do not know they have it and are therefore likely to pass on the virus.

Get involved

We can stop HIV, but it takes each of us to make it happen. Take action today.