Gay and bisexual men in England have the power to halt the spread of HIV in their community within a generation, according to a major new campaign launched today by the Department of Health.
The It Starts With Me campaign, created by the Terrence Higgins Trust, urges people in high-risk groups to get tested for HIV at least every 12 months, and more frequently if they have symptoms or have put themselves at risk by having unprotected sex. It also urges people to protect themselves during sex by using condoms and finding other ways to avoid risk.
Cary James, head of health improvement programmes at Terrence Higgins Trust said: “While a cure or vaccine for HIV remains stubbornly out of reach, what many gay men don’t realise is that medical advances mean it is now within our community’s grasp to stop the virus in its tracks. By getting as many people with HIV as possible tested and on effective treatment, we should see new infection rates fall rapidly.”
He added: “To succeed in this, we need gay and bisexual men to understand that HIV is just as relevant an issue today as it was in 1982. Every day in this country around eight more gay or bi men are diagnosed, and that number is increasing. We can reverse this trend, but we must do it together or not at all.”
There are around 90,000 people living with HIV in England. One person in four does not know they have it.
Gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men (MSM) continue to be disproportionately affected by the spread of HIV; accounting for almost half of all new cases. It reached an all-time high in 2011 with 3,010 cases reported in the group.