Gay men’s health charity GMFA have launched a new campaign highlighting the benefits of knowing you HIV status following new figures released by the British Association for Sexual Health and HIV (BASHH).

New BASHH guidelines recommend that gay men take an HIV test every year, after news has emerged that almost half HIV positive men are unaware of their condition.

In 2005, the Gay Men’s Health Survey showed that 40% of gay men had never had an HIV test at all.

GMFA’s new campaign outlines the benefits of being aware of your HIV status, including avoiding transmitting the virus to others, and better health and longer life for HIV positive men.

Matthew Hodson, Head of Programmes for GMFA, said:

“What makes this campaign special is that it was developed by a group of volunteers most of whom are HIV positive themselves.

“Getting a positive diagnosis is still really tough, but these volunteers are able to talk honestly about the benefits of knowing your status from their personal experience.

“If you don’t get tested it won’t make you HIV negative.

“Even if you don’t test it’s likely you’ll find out eventually but it may not be until you get ill, when your immune system has been severely damaged.

“It’s better to take control of when you find out so that you are able to access the best medical attention and advice.

“We want men to understand if you take an HIV test it helps put you in control of your health, your life and your relationships.”

Director of the Health Protection Agency’s (HPA) Centre for Infections, Professor Peter Borriello, said:

“The control of HIV transmission is a major public health challenge and testing for HIV, and for all sexually transmitted infections in the UK, needs to be increased still further.

“If you care, get tested.”

Research carried out by the HPA in 2005 showed that 22% of gay men were diagnosed with HIV too late when health problems could arise, and 7% had already progressed to clinically defined AIDS.

Late HIV diagnosis in gay men has also been shown to increase the chances of death within a year by more than ten times..