In response to the increasing number of HIV infections amongst gay men in their teens and twenties, GMFA has launched a new campaign focused on raising awareness of HIV. The campaign invites young gay men to start thinking again about their sexual health and reconsider some of the things they think they know about HIV.
In 2012 there were more gay men diagnosed with HIV than in any previous year, and a third of these men were in their teens or twenties. GMFA conducted a number of focus groups with young gay men to see why infection rates were so high in this group and found that many young gay men thought that HIV was something that was unlikely to affect them, with some thinking that there was already a cure for HIV.
GMFA’s Chief Executive, Matthew Hodson said, “If we are going to avoid a generation of gay men getting infected it’s important that we persuade young gay men to think again about HIV, to reconsider some of the things that they think they know, to arm themselves with the information and the skills they need to prevent transmission.”
Effective HIV treatment now means that someone with diagnosed HIV has a good life expectancy, but will be reliant upon daily doses of medication to maintain health. For most people, receiving an HIV diagnosis remains traumatic and HIV remains more stigmatized than other infections. Improvements in treatment also mean that fewer people have visible symptoms of infection and this can lead to people having less awareness of HIV.
Adam was diagnosed with HIV after having had unprotected sex with two guys that he was seeing. “My whole world collapsed. Up until these two guys, I’d always had safe sex. HIV was not something I ever considered I could get. Because they didn’t look like they had HIV, I didn’t know where I could have possibly picked it up from. Looking back, I cannot blame anyone. It’s just as much my fault as it is the guys I barebacked with. In fact, it’s probably more my own stupidity. I wasn’t educated. It’s my health and I was the one that had something to lose.”
Adams’ story, and others, can be found at the ‘Think Again’ webpage . ‘Think Again’ posters will be distributed to gay pubs and clubs and will also appear on bus shelters near gay venues in London, in areas including Vauxhall, Clapham, Shoreditch and Soho.
The models used in the campaign are all young gay men in their late teens and early twenties. All of them share GMFA’s passion for raising awareness of the disease and aiming to reduce HIV infection rates among gay men.
Matthew added, “From the research that we did it was clear that what young gay men need from HIV prevention and information campaigns is different from what some other groups of gay men need. With HIV prevention, just as with condoms, it’s not the case that one size fits all. GMFA’s next campaign will be targeting men who are involved in the sex party scene and we’ve got exciting plans to do work with other key groups too.”
GMFA currently receives no financial support from local or national Government funding for its HIV prevention work. The Think Again campaign, GMFA’s website and FS Magazine are all funded by the support and generosity of individuals from the gay community, and the men and women who value this community. This support is vital in enabling us to continue providing gay men with the information they need to live happy, healthier lives.