- Honestly, when was the last time you tested for HIV?
- Did you know that you should be testing for HIV and other STIs at least once a year?
Sadly, gay and bi men and black African men and women make up around 70% of people living with HIV in the UK.
According to recent Public Health England stats one in eight gay and bisexual men being seen for HIV care in the UK were from black, Asian or other minority ethnic groups.
This is why it’s so important for me – someone who’s gay, black and African to take care of my sexual health and be aware of all the HIV prevention tools available so I know the best possible way to protect myself from HIV.
I’m not only from three demographics disproportionately affected by HIV but my race and ethnicity are also disproportionately affected by HIV stigma, lack of awareness and inadequate access to biomedical HIV prevention tools such as PrEP and treatment as prevention.
It’s National HIV Testing Week from Saturday 17 November and that’s means it’s time to get tested!
If you’re a gay or bi man doctors recommend that you test at least once a year and more often if you’ve had unprotected sex or slept with more than one partner. Yes, it’s been proven that you can live a long healthy life with HIV – but first you’ve got to get tested and know your status.
Being a black gay man it’s very disheartening to see that people of colour are still being affected by HIV in the UK to the extent that they are. One of the most painful things is the fact that in many BAME communities there is still a stigma associated with merely getting tested.
The only way we can stop this stigma is by normalising testing. Getting tested regularly should be the norm, made as normal as seeing your GP and not something we feel uncomfortable to discuss.
Here are just some of the ways you can get involved in this year’s campaign:
This campaign is to encourage people to get tested. So what better way to get the message out there than to lead by example.
You can order a free self-sampling test kit, where you test for HIV at home, send off your sample and get your results in around a week. Visit startswithme.org.uk to order your test.
You can also find out where to test locally and work out if it’s time to test on the It Starts With Me website.
Follow Phil on social media @IdiosyncraticXL
For more information about National HIV Testing Week go to startswithme.org.uk.