GMFA Why we took part in the Me. Him. Us. campaign The models for Me. Him. Us. explain why they wanted to get involved with the campaign and why HIV testing is important. Phil Age: 27 Occupation: Health Improvement Specialist Why did you decide to get involved in the campaign? Initially, I decided to get involved in the campaign because I had recently developed an interest within the HIV and sexual health sector particularly within HIV prevalence of black men and PrEP advocacy. Within the campaign meetings I quickly realised that I have a very niche perspective being gay, black African and a Londoner, and my ability to communicate a unique openness was brought to my attention, this got me to where I am today. How often do you get tested for HIV? I get tested for HIV for every 3 months, regardless of risk. Why do you think testing is important? I think that testing is important because sadly black men are disproportionately affected by HIV universally and worldwide. Black gay/bi men have higher prevalence of HIV than both black straight men and non black gay/bi men, black gay men have had a year-on-year increase in UK diagnoses and more are likely to be diagnosed with advanced HIV. As a black gay man do you feel represented in general across media and in the gay community? As a black gay man I personally do not feel accurately represented at all in media or the gay community. There is already a small amount of positive black male role models that steer away from stereotypes and there are even less ones that are gay. Black gay men are atrociously misrepresented as either being aggressive and hypersexual or overly feminine and sassy, both boxes I do not feel I fit into. When I was younger I never saw anyone who was like me on TV or heard anyone on the radio who was like me either and I think honest visibility and representation is so important for young black boys to feel comfortable in their sexuality however they see fit. What message would you send out to other black gay men when it comes to testing for HIV? Getting tested is extremely important because the transmission of some STIs are very difficult to prevent, even if you are practising safer sex. Testing is absolutely vital in reducing HIV transmission as it decreases the number of people living with undiagnosed HIV, if they are undiagnosed they could be unknowingly passing on the virus without even knowing they have it. There's another reason testing for HIV regularly is important: the earlier you're diagnosed the sooner you can begin treatment. Someone who is on effective medication for HIV can live a long, healthy life. When someone is diagnosed with HIV their viral load is high which means they can pass on HIV. However, with effective treatment, viral load can be made so low that it is not detectable in a blood test - this is what is called HIV-undetectable. That means you can't pass on HIV through sex. I understand that the subject of sex can be difficult for some but despite the huge improvements and all the HIV prevention tools available today, there's been no change in the number of adults getting HIV worldwide and this urgently needs to change. Testing and treatment is private and confidential and must be made to be as normal as seeing your GP or going to the dentist for a check-up. Getting tested is about being in control of your sexual health for yourself, for your partners and for our community. Book an appointment today if you are due for a check-up then please empower and encourage all the black men you know to do the same. As a black gay man, do you feel represented when it comes to sexual health? As a black gay man, I do not feel represented when it comes to sexual health. I feel this way because there are inequalities when it comes to sexual health, not enough is done to combat stigma attached to particular sexual health conditions or concerns about confidentiality during testing which creates black men's reluctance to use services. There is not enough cultural sensitivity which could bring successful behavioural change for example a lot of men reporting difficulties in communicating in English which creates anxiety about discussing sexual health with English speaking healthcare professionals. Awareness and knowledge of HIV drugs desperately needs to be raised, and more targeted HIV prevention campaigns like this one need to be made. Melli Age: 23 Occupation: Dancer Why did you decide to get involved in the campaign? I felt that the subject of HIV and testing needs to be spoken about for it still feels quite taboo. I wanted to be involved in a project that helps to break down the stigma. How often do you get tested for HIV? I get tested every 6 months. Why do you think testing is important? It’s important for a number of reasons, but most importantly for your own health. It is no longer a death sentence and so the fear of finding out you maybe positive shouldn’t be the reason you don’t get tested. The medical advancements in recent years means there is plenty of help available. As a black gay man do you feel represented in general across media and in the gay community? On the whole, no. But I do believe that it is an issue that has been noticed and is slowly being rectified. Something as important as representation needs to be done thoughtfully and respectfully in order for it to make the difference that it intends to. I feel we will soon see more than just the “sassy black gay male” that we’ve come to accept as our representative in the media. What message would you send out to other black gay men when it comes to testing for HIV? As a community or subculture we need to be more open about issues that affect us both positively and negatively. We need to remove the fear from HIV and testing in order to live our fullest and healthiest lives. Get tested. It’s better to know either way. Augustus Age: 23 Occupation: Administrator - Harrow Council Why did you decide to get involved with the campaign?As a gay black man I'm statistically much more at risk to get HIV than other demographics. As someone who believes that sexual health and getting check-ups regularly is very important, I think that we should all do the same. As a community we must help each other to progress and spread awareness. Any way to promote that is a blessing and great opportunity.How often do you get tested for HIV?Every 3-6 months depending on how sexually active I am.Why do you think testing is important?Testing is extremely important. Being sexually active and not getting tested for HIV/STIs regularly is a very dangerous game, which tampers with your life as well as those you are sexually active with. A lot of people also are unaware that they even have infections due to symptoms not showing straight away, therefore it is crucial to get tested regularly. Kris Age: 29 Occupation: Reception/Facilities Coordinator Why did you decide to get involved with the campaign? I decided to do the campaign because I want to share awareness of sexual health care within the black community and show support to my good friend Philip Samba. Why do you think testing is important? Testing is important for everyone to know their status and general health. As a black gay man, do you feel represented when it comes to sexual health? Not really. I rarely seen someone who is from the same minority/background group as myself. As a black gay man, do you feel represented in general across media and in the gay community? Sometimes, within the TV/advertising/radio but it’s very limited here in the UK. What message would you send out to other black gay men when it comes to testing for HIV? Definitely go and get tested, it’s your responsibility to care of your wellbeing. Rahiem Age: 25 Occupation: Corporate Energy Broker Why did you decide to get involved with the campaign? I got involved to raise not only awareness for my community but also start the process of Black LGBT being represented. How often do you get tested for HIV? I get tested every 4 months. What message would you send out to other black gay men when it comes to testing for HIV? I’d say to the black LGBT men out there, no matter your current situation, whether you’re out or not, your health and your truth are the most important things.