‘Knowing you’ve got HIV is such a large part of the battle,’ says Sadiq who was diagnosed four years ago and believes in the importance of positive role models living well with HIV.
‘It means that you can be confident in protecting yourself and others when it comes to HIV, negative or positive. And it really doesn’t take long. You can even order a free postal testing kit but I find it easiest just to go to a drop in centre as there’s always someone there to talk to. Don’t be scared and stay ignorant. You’ve got this!’
‘I never smile in photos because, much like Victoria Beckham, I have responsibility to the fashion community. But I whipped out my most embarrassing grin for a good cause. I’m honoured to be part of this year’s National HIV Testing Week campaign from my friends Terrence Higgins Trust. I’m HIV negative and on PrEP, so I get tested for HIV and other STIs every three months and you absolutely should too!’
Multidisciplinary writer Otamere Guobadia believes ‘it’s important Africans are represented in these kinds of campaigns to show our community that we need to take an active role in educating ourselves on HIV and ending stigma’.
Jack (off X Factor!)
‘I think I felt most inspired to get involved with the campaign because I’ve learned so much about HIV this past year or two and think it’s incredibly important that other gay and bisexual men do too,’ says X Factor finalist Jack Remmington, of duo Jack and Joel.
‘I always wanted to use any kind of platform I got from the X Factor to raise awareness to causes close to my heart so while I didn’t necessarily expect to be involved in such a brilliant campaign, it’s always something I really wanted to do! Even if one person recognises my big old head and cheesy grin on a poster and gets tested for HIV, I’ll be very happy!
‘There’s still a lot of stigma around HIV and getting tested but it’s so, so important and easy! Breakthroughs with treatment around U=U meaning that HIV positive people on effective treatment can’t pass on the virus to HIV negative sexual partners is a huge thing that I think hasn’t gained the mainstream media exposure it deserves.
‘Things like that, along with how easy it is to take an HIV test, NEED to be more commonplace and hopefully this campaign can go a long way into encouraging conversation, awareness and knowledge around HIV.’
‘The first time I tested, I was 17 and I’d gone after researching about HIV,’ says Isaiah. ‘I remember speaking to friends about it and one of my friends has a partner who’s HIV positive, which got me thinking. I was having unprotected sex with my partner at the time. He tested regularly and was my first sexual partner, but I still decided I should start going to the clinic.
‘As a gay man, I thought I should be more aware of HIV. Both for my own health and so I can educate friends. It wasn’t that I thought I had HIV, I just thought I should go and get it and get into the habit of it.’
Nieko (from Ku)
‘Knowing your status, regardless of the result, is mentally and physically healthier for both myself, and also anyone that I may be in physical contact with,’ says Nieko, who manages Ku Bar in Soho where he and his team show their support for National HIV Testing Week.
‘Slowly the stigma of being HIV positive is being eradicated thanks to education, and medical possibilities. So it is SO important everyone knows their status, on a regular basis, to ensure the wellbeing of themselves and everyone who they’re in contact with.’
‘I’m trans and it’s very different to having HIV, but there’s a lot of stigma about being trans due to people not educating themselves about that and I think it’s probably quite similar for people living with HIV,’ says James.
‘You read those dating profiles and it’s like “I don’t want this, this and this” and if we can just be a little bit kinder to each other and start a dialogue that’s really important.’
‘I’d been with my now husband for about five weeks. It was super early. We thought we were doing the responsible thing at the starts of a new relationship and well…I was diagnosed with HIV,’ says Andrew who knows the importance of National HIV Testing Week – he was diagnosed during the week four years ago.
‘We weren’t that committed prior to my diagnosis and, as an added complication, I wasn’t actually out as gay at the time. I knew I really liked him but I didn’t know where it was going. When you go through something like an HIV diagnosis with someone, it makes you stronger.
‘Never in a million years did I think I’d be the guy on the poster. I never thought I’d tell anyone. I told about four people initially. I didn’t tell my mum for 18 months.
‘Having the can’t pass it on message and being able to say loud and proud that effective treatment means I can’t pass it on is amazing. I think if we didn’t have that, it would be harder.
‘I take one tablet a day and I’m healthy. I’m probably more healthy than I was. I don’t drink as much as I used to or go out as much – not because I can’t, but just because I don’t. And obviously I have regular health checks.’
‘People seem to see testing as something to be ashamed of, but it shouldn’t be,’ says Paul, who believes in the importance of prioritising your physical, mental and sexual health. ‘We all have sex. There are some great sexual health clinics and now you can test at home and get a quick result. Testing is something to be proud of!
‘I’ve got three friends who have HIV and I’ve always tried to be very supportive of them. They’re absolutely fine and living well, but it seems there are other people who are really scared. Which is ridiculous because it’s 2018 and it’s not the same as it was 30 years ago – there’s no need to panic, you can live with it for the rest of
‘I think it’s important that more people know that those on effective HIV treatment can’t pass it on – with or without a condom – because it shows that the best thing to do is get tested and know your status.’
Get tested today!
There are loads of places and ways to test for HIV. You can find out where to test near you on startswithme.org.uk or order a free postal test, which will be send directly to your door in plain packaging.
If you have any questions about HIV or HIV testing, you can call THT Direct on 0808 802 1222 or visit tht.org.uk/thtdirect.
National HIV Testing Week is coordinated by Terrence Higgins Trust on behalf of Public Health England.