We've all heard the myths! If you're gay men you're bound to become HIV-positive. Right? Wrong! Just because you are gay does not mean you will become HIV-positive. But it is true that the virus does affect gay men more than the general population. In the UK today the vast majority of transmissions come from men who don't know they have the virus. Hence why testing is so important. In 2019, it was estimated that there are 105,200 people living with HIV in the UK.   

  • 94% of these people are diagnosed, and therefore know that they have HIV. This means that around 1 in 16 people living with HIV in the UK do not know that they have the virus.  
  • 98% of people diagnosed with HIV in the UK are on treatment, and 97% of those on treatment are virally suppressed which means they cannot pass the virus on. Of all the people living with HIV in the UK, 89% are virally suppressed.   
  • There is still a great deal of stigma about HIV. Stigma is damaging as it prevents people from getting tested, from accessing treatment and from living a happy and healthy life.  
  • The most common way HIV is transmitted is through sex without a condom.    
  • You cannot get HIV through casual or day-to-day contact, or kissing, spitting or sharing a cup, plate or toilet seat. 

If you are an HIV-negative gay man living in a modern world you should know that there's more to HIV prevention. So here at LGBT HERO we have a list of all the ways you can prevent HIV. 


Condoms

Using condoms while having sex is still one of the best ways to avoid picking up any STIs, becoming HIV-positive or passing on HIV. Make sure you use plenty of water-based lube too. Stay away from Vaseline, baby oil and spit – they will make the condom rip.

For more information about condoms and lube, visit www.gmfa.org.uk/condoms-and-lube.

WATCH: Me. Him. Us - condoms


Testing

All sexually active gay men should test for STIs at least once a year. If you are having sex with new partners then you should test more frequently. Test for HIV too when you’re there. It takes about two weeks for most STIs and four weeks for HIV to show up in a test. 

To find your nearest GUM clinic, visit www.gmfa.org.uk/clinics.

WATCH: HIV testing


Treatment

If you are diagnosed with HIV you will be put on treatment that will contain the virus in the body. Within a few short months the virus should become undetectable, meaning that it’s very unlikely that the virus will be passed on to sexual partners. However using condoms will further reduce the risk of passing on HIV and STIs.

For more information on HIV, being diagnosed and support services for men living with HIV, visit www.gmfa.org.uk/living-with-hiv.

WATCH: What you need to know about HIV-undetectable and viral load 


PrEP

PrEP means Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis, and it’s the use of anti-HIV  medication to keep HIV-negative people from becoming infected. PrEP has been shown to be safe and effective. A single pill taken once daily, it is highly effective against HIV. The medication interferes with HIV’s ability to copy itself in your body after you’ve been exposed. This prevents it from establishing an infection and stops you becoming HIV-positive.

PrEP is currently available on the NHS as a three year trial which began in September 2017. To find out more about the NHS trail visit, www.prepimpacttrial.org.uk

Want to buy PrEP now: you can find information about where to buy generic PrEP by visiting www.iwantprepnow.co.uk.

WATCH: PrEP 


PEP

PEP is a month-long course of HIV medication that can stop you becoming HIV-positive if started within 72 hours after sex (the sooner you start taking it the better). If you think you’ve been exposed to HIV, contact your local GUM clinic or go to an A&E.

For more info on PEP, visit www.gmfa.org.uk/pep.

WATCH: What is PEP?


Education

Knowing how HIV and STIs are transmitted is important. One way to stop HIV and STIs is to keep up to date with the latest news and information about HIV, STIs and safer sex.

For more information, visit www.gmfa.org.uk/sex.


Mental health

No matter what advice we give you about how to stop HIV and STIs, if your emotional health is not good you may find it harder to care about protecting your sexual health. So if you are feeling down, experiencing low self-esteem or have symptoms of depression then it’s best to talk to a professional who can help you get back on track.

For more information on how to look after your mental health, or to find support services, visit www.nhs.uk/mentalhealth.


READ SOME MORE:

READ: What you need to know about STIs