It’s not just ignorance about the proximity of HIV that can lead to unprotected sex. Sometimes men become infected not because they think HIV isn’t serious but because they have other difficulties in their life. Depression, low self-esteem and a lack of control can lead to decisions whereby men do not protect themselves every time. A wish for intimacy or just desire in the heat of the moment can also result in men putting themselves at risk. Scaring gay men, by giving them inaccurate messages about HIV, will do nothing to empower them to take control of their lives.

At GMFA we have found that the best way to get men to engage with our messages is to use a variety of techniques. We don’t think that any one campaign or style is going to appeal to all men so we use a mixture of humour (the HIV Detector campaign), sex (the Hot Sex booklet) and medical information (the Know Your Status campaign) to get a range of important HIV prevention information across.

We believe that we can only produce work that will be credible if we are honest and frank. Preventing new infections is what motivates us – the GMFA staff and the hundreds of GMFA volunteers. We provide accurate information about HIV and safer sex through our websites, our courses, our booklets and postcards, FS magazine and through our advertising campaigns. Hundreds of thousands of gay men across the UK benefit from the detailed HIV information and advice on our websites. Hundreds of gay men across England come to our workshops – and not just the famously sexy ones but also to courses on building confidence and assertiveness skills.

There is absolutely no cause for anyone who cares about HIV prevention to be complacent. The best evidence that we have, generated here in the UK and around the world, is that giving gay men clear, honest and accurate information, equipping gay men with the tools for protected sex, and empowering gay men to control the sex that they have is the most effective way of preventing HIV infections.

However, there is no magic bullet, no formula of fear or entreaty that will be able to prevent all future infections. Even if all gay men were well educated about HIV, well equipped and assertive there would still be some men who sometimes would have unprotected sex. GMFA can provide information and some degree of support, but ultimately the power to stop new infections within our community lies with gay men. I believe that by taking responsibility for our actions, by protecting our own health and by looking after the health of our sexual partners, gay men can prevent new infections and build a stronger and safer community.

For more information, visit gmfa.org.uk

References:
1. 97.8 per cent of gay men agreed with the statement ‘’HIV is still a very serious medical condition’ – Gay Men’s Sex Survey 2006
2. Sexually Transmitted Infections and Men who have sex with men in the UK: 2008 Report, Health Protection Agency.
3. Working with HIV – A summary of NAT’s HIV employment research, 2009.
4. In 2006 74.3 per cent of gay men expected disclosure of HIV status from a sexual partner, up from 64.1 per cent in 2002.
5. 48.5 per cent of total sample of men (incl. men who had tested positive themselves) knew someone who is HIV positive, GMSS 2003, a reduction from 65.9 per cent who knew someone positive in GMSS 2000.