It Starts With Me, the flagship campaign from HIV Prevention England (HPE), a partnership of community organisations headed by Terrence Higgins Trust and funded by the Department of Health to carry out national HIV prevention work in England among communities at an increased risk of infection, has launched its next stage, highlighting the risk of recent HIV infections and encouraging condom use among gay and bisexual men in England.
Research shows that as many as half of new HIV transmissions take place during the period known as primary infection. During this period, it is estimated that someone with HIV may be up to 26 times more infectious than at any point afterwards, dramatically increasing the risk of a transmission taking place. This peak of infectiousness occurs within the first six weeks after contracting HIV.
Cary James, Head of Health Improvement Programmes at Terrence Higgins Trust, said, “Recent infection is a huge driver of HIV transmission. There’s a time immediately after infection when the level of HIV in the body skyrockets and the person is at high risk of passing on HIV. This happens before most tests are able to detect an infection.
So if two guys who previously tested negative decide not to use condoms because they think they’re both negative, they could not only be wrong but also having unprotected sex when one of them is super-infectious. Condoms are by far the best way to protect yourself and others from HIV.” Gay and bisexual men are invited to sign up to It Starts With Me by visiting www.startswithme.org.uk. You can also join the conversation on social media at www.facebook.com/startswithme and Twitter feed at @startswith_me.