In response to the high levels of stigma experienced by people with HIV, GMFA, the gay men’s health charity, today announced the launch of its anti-HIV stigma campaign targeted at African communities in London. The campaign was developed by Big Up, the Black gay men’s project at GMFA, which receives Big Lottery funding to create sexual health interventions for Black gay men in London.
The campaign, which will feature in tube stations in Central London, aims to create awareness of the impact of HIV-related stigma, which can lead to the isolation of HIV-positive people in their communities, as well as deter people from getting tested for HIV or having access to the treatment they might need.
Matthew Hodson, Head of Programmes at GMFA, says: “HIV carries a high burden of stigma. Stigmatisation of HIV makes it more difficult for positive people to discuss HIV with their sexual partners and can discourage people from testing or seeking medical help. In these ways, HIV stigma perpetuates and exacerbates an environment that makes HIV transmission more likely.”
HIV stigma can have a significant impact on individuals’ lives and choices. A study investigating the experiences of people living with HIV in the UK found that just under a quarter had experienced discrimination within the previous year while accessing services, social settings and in public.1 Moreover, a study focussing on African people living with HIV in the UK revealed that over one third had experienced problems with discrimination in the previous year. This same study revealed that just under half of African people with HIV had not revealed their diagnosis to anyone they lived with, two thirds had not told their employers and a quarter had not told their GP.2
Some evidence also suggests that Black gay men, one of the key target groups for this campaign, are particularly at risk of HIV. When compared to other ethnic groups in the UK, Black men who sleep with men are more likely to be diagnosed with HIV (13.4% compared to 10% White British gay men).3
Featuring the headline “HIV is a virus. It has no race, gender or sexuality”, the campaign will appear as posters in tube stations throughout Central London, and will also be distributed through commercial operators and faith-based institutions in London’s African communities.
Matthew adds: “HIV-related stigma is experienced around the world. All too often, people with HIV are blamed for their status and have to cope with rejection or vilification. Challenging and rejecting stigma leads to stronger and healthier communities.”
1. Weatherburn et al. 2002
2. Weatherburn et al. 2003
3. Testing Targets, Sigma Research, September 2009