We now have the tools to stop HIV, but it takes each of us to make it happen. The It Starts With Me summer campaign focuses on four main tools that we can all use to stop HIV.
The HIV prevention pill that can be taken daily or ‘event based’, which is as and when you need it
Getting tested is quick, easy and confidential
People living with HIV and on treatment can’t pass it on
They protect you from HIV and other STIs
The campaign features real people who are all playing their part in stopping HIV. Whether this be through using condoms, stocking up on PrEP, getting tested or taking HIV treatment.
Here is Tom, Sadiq, Kacper and Nicholas to tell you how they plan on stopping HIV this summer.
Tom: ‘I’m on PrEP’
PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) is a PILL taken by HIV-negative people before sex that reduces the risk of getting HIV. Taking PrEP before being exposed to HIV means there’s enough drug inside you to block HIV if it gets into your body.
“I was advised to look into PrEP by my sexual health clinic after a chat I had during my routine check-up,” says Tom.
“After doing my own research on PrEP I decided it was a sensible option, given my current single status and level of sexual activity. PrEP provides me with a level of reassurance and peace of mind should I find myself in any situation where contracting HIV could be a potential risk.”
“I think everyone, regardless of their sexuality should be fully equipped with the knowledge of all available avenues of sexual health. We put so much effort into doing the same to aid our physical and mental health, so why should we neglect our sexual health?”
“I have used PrEP both through ‘on-demand-dosage’ just when needed, as well as taking a daily dosage to maintain constant levels of protection. I’m always surprised how few people understand that there are multiple ways to protect yourself using PrEP. It’s in all our best interests to know the facts so I urge those that don’t know yet to read up and for those that do, join me in spreading the awareness within your communities.”
Sadiq: ‘I’m on treatment’
Sadiq has been a familiar face from the It Starts With Me campaign. He was diagnosed with HIV four and a half years ago, and now he’s playing his part in stopping HIV by being on effective treatment, which means he can’t pass the virus on.
HIV treatment works by reducing the amount of virus in the blood to undetectable levels, which means – as well as protecting the body from the virus – that HIV can’t be passed on.
“Knowing I can’t pass on HIV opens up a world where I’m ok to be HIV positive and still have sexual relationships, both casual and intimate ones – without HIV being a barrier,” says Sadiq.
“I find the information that I can’t pass it on is always met with surprise. It’s often met with joy and acceptance, but it’s never really met with ‘oh, I knew that’.
Although Sadiq recognises that effective HIV treatment is helping to debunk the stigma surrounding HIV, he still believes it’s just as important for people living with HIV to be represented in the media.
“I think positive visibility is one of the biggest things that’s changing the dynamic of stigma at the moment. Regardless of any medical changes that we’re going through, visibility of HIV positive people, whether it be on social media or wherever, is making a difference.
“I wasn’t very aware of HIV. I had dated one HIV positive person when I was in my teens, so I didn’t have a battle to deal with in the sense of acceptance, because I’d already been through that with someone else. But, in terms of what it meant on a day-to-day basis, I wasn’t knowledgeable at all. And neither were the people around me – but now they bloody are!
“Luckily, I had some good peers, which is why I think visibility is so important. At first all of my knowledge was gained from doctors and was very clinical. That’s why being able to relate to peers, who you see actively engaged in their own lives, is what made me able to accept my diagnosis.
“Since opening up about my HIV diagnosis ‘I haven’t experienced much stigma. I’ve had a couple of blocks on Grindr but I can cope with that.”
Kacper: ‘I get tested regularly’
Gone are the days when you had to wait ages to get your HIV test results back from your HIV test. With self test kits and rapid testing you can have your results with you in 15 minutes.
Not only can you get results back quickly, but there are now so many different ways for you to get tested. Kacper regularly gets tested, and he wants to make sure everyone else is doing the same.
“I always test at my GP or at a sexual health clinic,” says Kacper.
“I think is very important to get tested at least every 3 months! The only way to know for sure if you have HIV or not is to get tested. If you have HIV, the earlier you find out the sooner you can access treatment and support and live a long healthy life.”
Nicholas: ‘I use condoms’
When used correctly and consistently, condoms are the easiest way to protect yourself against HIV, and other STIs.
Condoms come in different sizes, thicknesses and materials.
There are condoms which will not only fit better, but increase sensations and enhance pleasure for both you and your partners!
Free condoms from his local sexual health clinic is how Nicholas protects himself from HIV, alongside regular testing if he’s been with a new partner.
“I use condoms because they are a sure way to protect myself from HIV and other STIs,” says Nicholas.
“The right condom is out there for everyone, it’s not one size fits all. There are flavoured ones, ribbed ones, thicker ones and thinner ones and even latex free ones.”
Whilst Nicholas is happy with using condoms, he still understands the importance of getting tested.
“Condom use and regular testing is really important, for HIV and other STIs, and no one should ever feel ashamed to get tested.”
Photos by Thomas Knights
It Starts With Me is run
by Terrence Higgins Trust on behalf of Public Health England.
For more information about
HIV prevention visit startswithme.org.uk