Terrence Higgins Trust Press Officer Will Harris commented that gay and bisexual men have the power to halt the spread of HIV within a generation. In an op-ed piece written for ThinkProgress, he said that gay and bisexual men shouldn’t wait for a cure.
“There is no cure for HIV. There may not be one in my lifetime or yours,” said Harris. “We can wait and we can hope, but neither of these things is going to keep the people you know now – friends, partners, that guy you have your eye on at spin class – free from infection in the future.”
Harris believes that what is on the drug market now is enough to work with.
“The drugs we have already are so effective that, if someone is on antiretroviral therapy and sticking to it, they are essentially non-infectious,” said Harris as he provided another alternative through the work of his organization, Terrence Higgins Trust.
“The real challenge is getting the estimated 8,000 gay and bi men in the UK who have HIV but don’t know it yet (and therefore have untreated virus in their bodies) onto effective treatment. If we could do that, new infections within the community would drop off a cliff. We could halt the spread of HIV. And we could do it within a generation.”
With England’s Department of Health establishing a new HIV prevention campaign for gay men, they hope to halt the epidemic as a gay man in the UK is “diagnosed every three hours.”
According to the UK’s Health Protection Agency, 3,010 gay and bisexual men tested positive for the virus in 2011. And Harris says, “this year, that figure may be higher still.”
Harris provides solutions – from taking a personal quiz on www.startswithme.org.uk, which will provide tools like ordering an HIV test kit, buying cheaper condoms and locating the closest clinic.
“Tell someone you know about the campaign,” Harris concluded. “It doesn’t matter who. It might be a friend or partner; it might be everyone on your Twitter feed. We have to get the message out there that together, we can stop HIV. If enough of us can spare 15 minutes to follow these two simple steps, we really will have started something.”