Andrew, Charity and Sadiq: We can’t pass it on

15 April 2019

Three models for It Starts With Me

Andrew, Charity and Sadiq have been living with HIV for some time now and would like everyone to know that people on effective HIV treatment can’t pass on the virus to others.

What you need to know about how treatment stops HIV being passed on

The aim of HIV treatment is to lower the level of HIV (viral load) in someone’s blood to a point where it is so low that it cannot be detected in the laboratory (called an ‘undetectable viral load’). We are using the term effective treatment to mean that someone is on treatment and has an undetectable viral load.

The likelihood of passing on HIV is directly linked to the amount of the virus in your blood. The lower the amount of virus in your blood, the lower the chance of it being passed on, and vice versa. Having an undetectable viral load means that you cannot pass on HIV.

Here’s more about Andrew, Charity and Sadiq.


Andrew is an education and social care worker from Lincoln. Andrew was diagnosed back in 2014 when he and his partner (now husband) decided to get tested. This resulted in his test coming back positive.

Find out more about Andrew’s story here:


Charity is part of Catwalk 4 Power, an organisation that aims to empower women living with HIV. Charity was diagnosed with HIV the first time she tested back in 2003. She has gone on to share her story as a way of combating outdated perceptions of what it’s like to live with HIV.

Find out more about Charity’s story here:


Sadiq is a model and circus performer from London. He was diagnosed back in 2014 and recently took part in our National HIV Testing Week campaign.

Find out more about Sadiq’s story here:

See how effective HIV treatment stops HIV being passed on.

Five reasons why you should test for HIV

26 October 2018


It’s National HIV Testing Week from 17 to 23 November, a great opportunity for you to get tested and encourage others to do the same.

Here are five reasons why you should get tested.

1. Be sure of your status.

Testing is the only way to know for sure if you have HIV or not. People sometimes live for years unaware that they have it.

If you’ve never tested, or it’s been more than a year since your last test, it’s a good idea to test now. It’s advised to test once a year – or more often if you’ve had unprotected sex with more than one partner.

If you’re worried about HIV, a test can put your mind at ease.

2. Testing is easy, free and confidential.

Getting your test is quick, easy, and free.

It can be as simple as a finger-prick test.

You can test for HIV in a community service, sexual health clinic, your GP, or even your own home.

3. Take control of your health and stay well.

Stay on top of your health.

If the test result is negative, you can take action to stay that way. If it’s positive, you can get treatment that keeps you healthy and prevents serious illness.

When people get very ill or die because of HIV, it’s usually because of testing late and missing out on treatment.

4. Keep you and your partner healthy.

If you have HIV and don’t know it, you’re more likely to pass it on. But if you know your status, you can make sure you and your partner are taking steps to stay healthy. For example, if you have a positive result, your partner could take PrEP while you start treatment. And if you have a negative result, you might choose to use PrEP yourself.

It takes about six months on treatment to become undetectable. This is when the amount of virus in your blood is so low that you can’t pass it on to other people.

5. Get the treatment and support you need.

In the UK, HIV medication and medical care is free.

If you have HIV, the sooner you start treatment, the better it is for your health.

Taking HIV medication as prescribed and getting an undetectable viral load means you can’t pass on HIV to your partner, even without a condom.

If you test positive, there’s a wealth of information and support to help you live well with HIV.

Order a free HIV postal test

Simon Dunn’s five life hacks for staying in shape

15 October 2018

Simon Dunn

Photo: Thomas Knights 

Aussie Simon Dunn is one of the faces (and fingers) of our new National HIV Testing Week campaign, asking everyone to give HIV the finger and get tested, which launches this November.

Simon’s a former professional athlete and current model and personal trainer, so we asked him to share his top health tips for improving your physical, mental and – of course – sexual health.

1. Enjoy your food!

Unless you’re a professional athlete, you’re not going to want to stick to a strict diet all the time. But the simple rule for weight loss is to be in a calorie deficit, which means you burn off more calories than you take in. So, in short: enjoy that beer, you’ve earned it.

2. Get tested for STIs

Yes, more and more of us are hitting the gym for that all important leg day, but it’s important to keep a check on your sexual health too. In the same way I head to the dentist to make sure my teeth are healthy, I go to my local sexual health clinic every three months for a full screen. That’s because looking after your sexual health is as important as keeping your physical health in check.

I’ve had chlamydia before but, because I test regularly, it was found and treated really quickly.

3. Mix up your training

If you are hitting the gym, it’s important to keep things fun and vary what you do. That’s because going to the same gym every single day, doing the same workout and seeing the same old people isn’t going to keep you motivated for long. So mix it up!

One good option is to add an active recovery day to your routine and do something you enjoy whether it’s cycling, hiking or – like me – playing a team sport.

4. Self care

Instagram has been a great platform for me and I’m thankful for all the opportunities that have come my way because of social media. But it isn’t always easy and there are lots of people out there who will do anything to bring you down. I get loads of amazing comments on my photos, but I get the nasty ones too – calling me fat, calling me ugly, insulting my boyfriend.

Social media is a big part of my life, but I’ve recently implemented a no phones in the bedroom rule and it’s really helped.

5. Surround yourself with good people

This is a rule for life and fitness. I’m a personal trainer and part of my job is to bring it every session. My clients are paying for me time and I make sure I’m prepared to help them get the most out of their hour. If you’re looking for a trainer, find one who’s enthusiastic, who you gel with and who can push you beyond what you think you can do.

Get tested for HIV today!

If you’re not sure whether it’s time for your next HIV test then answer a couple of questions in our when to test quiz and find out. You can also find out where to test locally.

If you’d like to hear more from Simon, you can follow him on Instagram.

Mum, me and HIV – Andrew’s story

15 August 2018

Andrew Gamez-Heath and mother dressed smartly

How would your mum react if you were diagnosed with HIV? Or your partner, daughter or brother? A HIV diagnosis can come as a shock, but there is life, relationships and sex after HIV.

Here’s what happened when Andrew Gamez-Heath told his mum Alison.

Andrew on Alison

“When I was diagnosed with HIV I knew one of the hardest people to tell was going to be my mum,” says Andrew, who was diagnosed during National HIV Testing Week in 2014.

“As an adult I never wanted to give my parents any unnecessary worry, yet I was faced with having to tell her I had a virus which at the time, neither of us understood. I knew she would be devastated.

“It was 18 months after receiving my diagnosis that I told her and she reacted exactly the way I expected her to. Total panic!

“Since then, she has also has become a bit of an activist, spreading the message that people living with HIV and on effective treatment can’t pass it on to anyone who will listen her. I couldn’t have asked for a more supportive parent.

“My advice to anyone living with HIV who maybe hasn’t told their family is to wait until you’re ready and you have got your head round your diagnosis. You may not be as lucky as I was and you may not get the reaction you expect.

“You don’t want to be supporting the person you’re telling when you still need support yourself. Remember once you have told someone you cant ‘un-tell’ them, so make sure it’s someone you trust. Wait until you have all the facts and all the answers to the questions you will be asked.”

Andrew Gamez-Heath as a child, with mother

Alison on Andrew

“When Andrew told me of his HIV diagnosis I felt every emotion in the book; terror, shock, anger and confusion about what was going to happen next,” says Alison about her son.

“How long was he going to live? Would I be able to nurse him? Would he be in pain? These were all the things that went through my brain. Since the 1980s, when there was the public education pieces on the television, I hadn’t heard much about the virus.

“In my mind HIV and AIDS were one and the same thing, something you died from!

“Andrew was calm and had obviously chosen his words wisely and very quickly, in a few minutes, told me that this was not the case and that treatment and medication had come a long way in 30 years.

“My advice for any parent finding out that their son or daughter is HIV positive is ‘don’t panic!’ That is easy to say in hindsight. I have learned so much since Andrew’s diagnosis that I will, at any opportunity, help to educate others to understand what the fairly simple treatment can do and by taking the prescribed medication the virus becomes undetectable so that it cannot be passed on to others.

“I am incredibly proud of Andrew who works for a sexual health charity and, on a daily basis, educates children and adults alike about HIV. He has had his diagnosis and knows how terrified he was, I just wish that I had been able to be with him and tell him, like mums do, that it would be all right, and it will.”

The truth about HIV

We now have the evidence to confidently say that people living with HIV and on effective treatment – like Andrew – can’t pass the virus on to anyone else.

The PARTNER study looked at 888 gay and straight couples (and 58,000 sex acts) across many countries where one partner was HIV positive and on effective treatment and one was HIV negative. Results found that where the HIV positive partner had an undetectable viral load, there were no cases of HIV transmission whether they had anal or vaginal sex without a condom.

If your HIV knowledge up-to-date? Find out more about the science behind this game-changing message.

“The fact I’m HIV positive has very little impact on our relationship”

15 May 2018

Matt and Rebecca

Matt is living with HIV and Rebecca isn’t. Because Matt’s on effective HIV treatment he can’t pass the virus on, and so they spend very little time thinking about his HIV status. They’re far too busy getting on with life.


‘The biggest misconception I’d want to clear up is that you cannot have a healthy relationship with someone who is HIV positive. It’s not something to be scared of as long as you’re informed and educated about it, you can have a happy relationship just like everybody else.

‘Matt has always been very open so if I’ve had any worries or concerns, he’s happy to talk them through it. I’ve had HIV tests with the doctor and we talk about any issues. If he had been more reticent, then his status may have a different impact on me.

‘I would say the best thing you can do is educate yourself and talk to your doctor. If you know what the dangers are (and there may not be) a transmission risk as people on medication virtually there is no risk.

‘The medication is available and people can have a very healthy relationship.’


‘Me and Rebecca met six years ago and we fell in love. She was very level-headed and had no issues about my HIV status and we moved on from there. We had to take precautions and make sure there was no transmission.

‘Even so, there was never any drama, tears or aggravation so it was as smooth as it could be.

‘To be fair, my status is a very small part of our relationship. We barely talk about the infection itself – all she reminds is to take my pills from time to time and that’s it. The actual fact I’m HIV positive has very little impact on our relationship.

‘Having an HIV status is not the worst thing that’s happened.’

Get tested

Do your bit in changing the course of HIV in the UK by getting tested.

It is extremely important to get tested for HIV regularly as it is the only way to know for sure if you have HIV or not. If you have HIV, the earlier you find out the sooner you can access life-saving treatment and support and live a long healthy life.

In most cases HIV is passed on because people are not aware they have it and the longer you live with undiagnosed HIV the more likely it is for it to seriously damage your immune system. Find out:

People on effective HIV treatment cannot pass it on

6 April 2018

Someone living with HIV, on treatment, with extremely low levels of the virus in their blood, cannot transmit the virus to someone else sexually, even if condoms are not used during sex.

How is this possible?

The likelihood of passing on HIV is directly linked to the amount of the virus in your blood. The lower the amount of virus in your blood, the lower the chance of it being passed on and vice versa.

When taken correctly, HIV treatment reduces the amount of virus in someone’s blood. When the virus is reduced to extremely low levels to the point where a laboratory test cannot pick it up, the virus cannot be passed on. This low level of virus in the blood is what is called an undetectable viral load. Different laboratories may have different cut-off points when classifying an undetectable viral load – however, most clinics in the UK classify undetectable as being below 20 copies of HIV virus per millilitre.

It is important to note that a key goal of treatment is to ideally get everyone living with HIV to have an undetectable viral load. While an undetectable viral load does not mean there is no HIV present, it helps people with HIV to live long and healthy lives.

Is there any proof?

Scientists and doctors have been observing this over the last 20 years, however it is only in recent major studies that this has been officially proven through extensive research.

The PARTNER study looked at 888 gay and straight couples (and 58,000 sex acts) across many countries where one partner was HIV positive and on treatment and one was HIV negative. Results found that where the HIV positive partner had an undetectable viral load, there were no cases of HIV transmission whether they had anal or vaginal sex without a condom. The PARTNER study used the definition of less than 200 copies/ml as being undetectable.

It can take up to six months from starting treatment to become undetectable.

This message has the backing of UNAIDS, Public Health England and hundreds of other leading public health experts and organisations worldwide.

OK, so what does this mean for me?

This message is so important because it helps us understand the progress that has been made on addressing HIV and to reduce stigma. Here are a few things you can do to help:

Spread the word

The more people that know about this the better the chance we have at beating HIV stigma. The great news is that in the UK, around 97% of people living with HIV who are diagnosed and are taking medication have an undetectable viral load – meaning that they can’t pass it on. This surpasses the UN global target of 90% of people on HIV medication having an undetectable viral load.

Get tested

It is important to get tested for HIV regularly as it is the only way to know for sure if you have HIV or not. If you have HIV, the earlier you find out the sooner you can access life-saving treatment and support and live a long healthy life. In most cases HIV is passed on because people are not aware they have it and the longer you live with undiagnosed HIV the more likely it is for it to seriously damage your immune system. Find out:

Take your medication

If you have HIV, it’s extremely important to continue to take your medication as prescribed by your HIV specialist to maintain an undetectable viral load. Adherence is vital so that you reap the maximum health benefits for yourself and also prevent the chance of passing it on to anyone else.

If everyone knew the facts, we could bring an end to stigma around HIV, and stop HIV transmissions altogether.

Find out all the other ways to stop HIV.

The People Behind National HIV Testing Week

18 January 2018

National HIV Testing Week has now been running for six years, with more and more people getting involved every year. More people are visiting testing centres, ordering free HIV postal tests and spreading the message about this important cause.

The campaign wouldn’t be the success it is today without all the incredible people who have donated their time and resources, so we wanted to start the new year by celebrating them.

HRH Prince Harry

Prince Harry, Testing Week 2017

Prince Harry has been a long-time supporter of the campaign. He took an HIV test live on Facebook in 2016 and continued his support by becoming the face of National HIV Testing Week in 2017.

He generated a massive amount of awareness by visiting our pop-up shop and handing out free testing kits to members of the public, and has continued to be a prominent voice in the fight against HIV.

Celebrity Support

Celebrity support, Testing Week 2017

Over the years many celebrities have taken to social media to show their support, and in 2017 they flocked to our pop-up shop in Hackney to offer their support in person.

We were thrilled to be visited by influential names such as the wonderful MNEK, Adekunle Gold, Dorcas Fapson and Dr. Rupy Aujla, who all showed an enormous amount of passion and enthusiasm towards the campaign.

Influencer support

Influencers, Testing Week 2017Many influential online personalities help spread the key messages of National HIV Testing Week every year, and 2017 was no different.

Riyadh Khalaf, Joy Ogude, Kevin Shanti, Smade and Hannah Witton all acted as ambassadors for the campaign, helped to promote awareness, and encouraged countless other influencers to show their support as well.

Community Organisations

Community, Testing Week 2017Hundreds of community organisations right across the country get involved with National HIV Testing Week by opening out-of-hours testing facilities and spreading awareness far and wide. Seeing so many different organisations sharing their photos and messages of support is always a campaign highlight.

Community Support

Give HIV the finger, Testing Week 2017Our biggest thanks goes out to all the support we receive directly from the wider communities.

The campaign wouldn’t be able to run without the volunteer models who generously donate their time. These models act as ambassadors for our campaign and are seen everywhere right across the nation – from social media, to billboards, to double spreads in magazines.

HIV prevention really does start with all of us. Do your part by getting involved and helping us to spread the message today.

Find out if you need to test

Find out about types of HIV tests

’My first HIV test was live on camera for MTV Shuga – it was easy and fast, and not scary at all!’

8 November 2017

Dorcas F

Actress Dorcas Shola-Fapson, who starred as lead character Sophie in season three and four of the award winning TV series MTV Shuga, is lending her support to National HIV Testing Week by encouraging people to get tested .

MTV Shuga looks at the lives of young people who find themselves unexpectedly dealing with various issues with HIV being a main one. The show, which is very popular amongst many young people worldwide, has helped to improve awareness of HIV, bust myths and get people testing for the virus.

‘In places like Nigeria, where MTV Shuga’s season three and four were set and filmed, HIV can often be swept under the rug. People still wrongly think that you can’t touch or hug people with HIV and that it’s a death sentence, but this is not true. Today HIV is a treatable condition that you can live well with – but you need to test, know you have it and get treatment.

‘As a public figure who has had an active role in one of the leading TV programmes on HIV I’m delighted and feel it’s important to be able to encourage people to join in with National HIV Testing Week.’

National HIV Testing Week encourages people, including black Africans, to test for HIV and know their status. Black Africans are disproportionately affected by HIV, with more than half diagnosed late, putting their health in danger.

‘I didn’t know much about HIV before my involvement with MTV Shuga,’ added Dorcas, who was raised in north London and auditioned for her role while in New York.

‘This is because we don’t always have the education and awareness about what HIV is really like in 2017. But the show really opened my eyes. Many people think they have a good understanding of HIV, but more needs to be done.’

As one of the faces of the National HIV Testing Week campaign, Dorcas is calling for people to get tested during the week, and not put it off.

‘My first ever HIV test was live on camera as part of the show. I was a little nervous because I thought they were going to have to take a lot of blood, but in fact it was just a little finger prick – really easy, simple and fast. It’s actually wasn’t scary at all.

‘National HIV Testing Week is a great way to remind people of the importance of testing. You can sometimes forget or put it to one side, but it’s vital. Loads of people will be testing during the week, so you are not alone. Together we can make a change by testing.’

MTV Shuga has won many awards including African Magic Viewers’ Choice Awards 2015. Now in its fifth season, it’s reached over 550 million people. Oscar-winning actress Lupita Nyong’o was the star of the first season before her major breakthrough in Hollywood.

MTV Shuga is all about breaking down the stigma around HIV. I think people can look at my character Sophie and learn from her. She made mistakes that many young people make, and she provides an opportunity to reflect on some of the things they might be doing.

‘The show definitely provokes conversation. A lot of my friends live here in London and I think they tend to view HIV as something that only happens in Africa or within the gay community.

‘However, because the show focuses on normal people from different walks of life people can relate to the characters and understand how HIV can affect anyone, anywhere.’

The Faces Of Our Campaign

2 October 2017

Since the beginning of the It Starts With Me campaign, it’s been the passion of individuals that has been the driving force behind the project’s success. The fight against HIV relies on so many volunteers, and the campaign’s most recent video showcases this by featuring many of the real people who are making a difference in their own way.

Here’s a closer look at the people who make up the video and how each of them have played an integral role in the progress we’ve seen over the past few years.

Celebrity Support


Doctor and television personality Ranj Singh has been a long-term supporter of the campaign, discussing National HIV Testing Week on national television as well as shouting about his support for the campaign on social media. Ranj represents the many celebrities that have made a difference in offering their support, including the likes of Stephen Fry, Prince Harry, Graham Norton and Dr Christian Jessen.

Ambassador Support


Horcelie Sinda – Miss Congo UK – is one of the many diverse voices that make up the voiceover for the video. As an ambassador for the campaign, she represents all the people speaking directly to their communities about the issues that matter most to them, and as an HIV activist herself, Horcelie is testament to the difference this can make.

YouTube Supporters


YouTubers Joy Ogude, Dan & Jon, Shoshana & Meredith, Jamie Raines, and Roly all make appearances and are just some of the many YouTubers who have been long-term supporters of the campaign. Contributing to over 3,000,000 views of the campaign videos, they’ve been an enormous  part of drawing attention to the campaign since its inception.

Drag Queen Support


Drag queen Poppy Seed is seen putting on her makeup in the video. She represents the tireless support we’ve received from the drag communities over the past few years. The drag communities have rallied together to show their support for National HIV Testing Week every single year; they’ve graced the covers of magazines in the name of HIV prevention, and been exceptionally open and honest in sharing the personal stories that matter most to them.

Community Support


The video also features members of the wider communities who make a difference by taking action in their own lives and encouraging their communities to do the same. Prem, Laura, Joe, Charlotte, Zoheb, Otto and Shaaba all make up the remaining voices and faces in the video, as well as appearances and voiceovers from members of Terrence Higgins Trust staff and the It Starts With Me team.

HIV prevention really does start with all of us. We’ve really started something, and with your help we can stop HIV for good.

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.