HIV and sexual health charity Terrence Higgins Trust has launched a short video clip for gay and bisexual men, outlining the risks of recent infection – the initial period after HIV is contracted, when a person is super-infectious but won’t yet know they have the virus – and urging men to use condoms with new or casual partners.
The 1:30 clip ‘Ben and Will’, which can be viewed at www.tht.org.uk/BenandWill, has been released as part of It Starts With Me, the flagship campaign from Terrence Higgins Trust and HIV Prevention England (HPE). It demonstrates how men who have recently contracted HIV are often unaware of their status, and – if they have contracted HIV within the last six weeks or so – will have such a high level of the virus in their body, they will be more infectious than at any point afterwards. Among gay men, as many as eight out of ten HIV transmissions are passed on by a partner who doesn’t know he has it.
Cary James, Head of Health Improvement at Terrence Higgins Trust, said: “Too many guys are deciding not to use a condom because they believe they or their partner are HIV-negative. It’s called serosorting, but really it should be called seroguessing. If either guy has had unprotected sex since his last negative result, he could not only have picked up HIV but now be super-infectious. As tests often won’t detect HIV during these first few weeks either, it’s really important men protect themselves by continuing to use condoms.”
In the UK, one in five gay and bisexual men with HIV remain undiagnosed, meaning there are currently more than 7,000 men in the UK’s gay community who have HIV but don’t know it. It Starts With Me focuses on a combination approach of condoms, testing and treatment to halt the spread of infection among the gay community. Using condoms and lube when having anal sex significantly reduces the risk of sexually transmitted infections, including HIV, being passed on.
HIV Prevention England is a partnership of community organisations headed by Terrence Higgins Trust and funded by the Department of Health to carry out national HIV prevention work in England among communities at an increased risk of infection.
Gay and bisexual men are invited to sign up to It Starts With Me by visiting www.startswithme.org.uk . They can also join the conversation on social media at www.facebook.com/startswithme