Generation ZERO is an important new campaign from 56 Dean Street aimed at ensuring the next generation of gay men will be free from HIV and AIDS. Dr Alan McOwan, lead clinician at 56 Dean Street, explains why it has been launched.
There’s something happening in London that is completely unacceptable. The youngest members of our community are still catching HIV. We have the tools to beat this virus. There’s no reason to let another generation be affected. We can stop this.
The official statistics suggest that HIV is falling in all age groups. However those figures are from 2018. Dean Street does half of all the HIV tests in London’s gay men. This means the clinic sees trends in real time. We haven’t seen any HIV reduction in those aged less than 25 years old. We actually saw a small rise in 18-21 year olds diagnosed with HIV.
That’s why 56 Dean Street is working with our community to create ‘Generation ZERO’. We’re determined that the next generation of gay men will be free from AIDS.
It’s five years since the PROUD study proved that PrEP medicine protects people from catching HIV. However it’s still not available on the NHS. There are a limited number of free places through the IMPACT study, but there aren’t enough. Dean Street has just closed the study for the fourth time due to lack of spaces. While you can buy PrEP privately, it’s simply not an option for many young Londoners. They often don’t have the money. We believe it’s not acceptable that young gay men remain at risk of HIV because they can’t afford to buy PrEP. We want to change that.
You can help by testing at G-A-Y Bar this World AIDS Day. G-A-Y will sponsor a year of free PrEP for every 20 people who HIV test in the bar. It’s a really simple finger prick blood test with a result in 60 seconds. You can also help us by donating directly at (http://tiny.cc/Fund56). For every £12 donated during December, Dean Street will supply a month of PrEP to someone under 25yrs unable to afford to buy it.
Regular testing is another extremely powerful weapon against HIV. People who are aware they have the virus can choose to start treatment. That brings the virus level in their body down to undetectable levels. Being undetectable makes it impossible to pass the virus to other people.
However getting into a clinic isn’t always easy and postal testing kits may not be an option if you live with your parents or in shared accommodation. That’s why for the next 4 months, gay men under 25 years old can walk into Dean Street Express for an HIV test without making an appointment. While you’re there, ask us about your HIV prevention options. Alternatively visit dean.st/zero
If we all work together we can achieve it. We can create Generation ZERO.
G-A-Y Bar’s 60 second HIV test results on World AIDS Day, Sunday 1 December from midday – 8pm at 30 Old Compton Street, Soho, W1D 4UR.
Voices of Generation ZERO
Fergus Glynn, 21
“The increasing rates of HIV in people my age is scary. For someone like me there wasn’t a lot of information when I was 18, or when I first started seeing guys, so I definitely did a lot of probably irresponsible things because I didn’t know better. I think in terms of raising awareness that needs to increase so much. I’ve definitely had that feeling where people would think that would never happen to me, without any other preventative measures, other than just not believing it. I’ve definitely had scares where I thought ‘Oh God, have I been exposed to HIV?’. I haven’t, but it is scary when you don’t know – and you don’t know what you actually have to do in order to prevent it.”
Samuel Dawson, 23
“It’s something I relate to being in Generation Z. I do feel like I haven’t really been very careful. I haven’t had PrEP and I didn’t see it as being very important, if that make sense. I’ve taken lots of risks, especially in London. When PrEP was on trial, I wasn’t really sure what it was. People were talking about it but I never really looked into it – and then when the trial ended, I didn’t really have the money for it. I could have made the money for it, I could have budgeted but I’ve been so busy it wasn’t really on my priority list. I think HIV hasn’t really been a big issue for us. I don’t really know anyone who’s died from the disease. I’m not aware of many people who have it, so I think it’s important for us to be reminded.”
Shyam Dattani, 22
“Growing up as a South Asian male in this country and the climate, I feel like it’s very taboo to speak about sexual health, especially when it comes to HIV and AIDS. It’s not something that’s spoken about at home. So to be involved with a campaign like this that opens that door slightly is something that I’m very interested in. With Generation ZERO, I really, really hope that happens – I have a few friends who are HIV positive and I was thinking how its impacted their lives. I definitely think my generation need to take it more seriously. I think people don’t value being tested regularly. I think it’s very easy to go out on a whim, engage and not do anything about it afterwards. I don’t think PrEP is well understood yet, I feel like it’s ‘something you can take, so you can have more sex’, but I don’t think people understand why it’s necessary – but I do feel it’s becoming more accepted to talk about these things.”
Photos by Joel Ryder