Health, fitness and Food

Africans in England can halt HIV within a generation

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African communities in England have the power to halt the spread of HIV in their community within a generation, according to a major new campaign launched today by HIV Prevention England (HPE).

 

It Starts With Me will run until Spring 2015, making it the largest-scale HIV prevention campaign to target Africans in this country to date. Created by Terrence Higgins Trust and funded by the Department of Health, it will reach Africans through press and online adverts, posters in community venues, and will be rolled out across England through a network of national and regional organisations, funded by HPE to promote the campaign in their local communities.

 

Recent figures revealed that the proportion of Africans acquiring HIV within the UK, as opposed to overseas, is now higher than ever.1 It Starts With Me  will emphasise the personal role that each and every African can play in stopping the spread of HIV in its tracks and drawing together the whole community in that effort..

 

For the two year duration of the campaign, It Starts With Me will rotate between a number of health messages, providing Africans with information and advice on how to protect themselves and their partners from HIV. The campaign’s over-arching message is simple: Africans in England can help stop the HIV epidemic in its tracks by:

 

  • Testing for HIV at least once every twelve months, and more frequently if they have put themselves at risk, have a high number of partners or show symptoms of seroconversion illness.
  • Taking the medication they need to stay fit and well, if they have been diagnosed with HIV.
  • Protecting themselves during sex by using condoms and finding other ways to avoid  risk.
  • Participating in community action by finding a way to support the campaign and spread the word to their friends and contacts.

 

Scientists and public health bodies agree that this combination of measures would drastically reduce undiagnosed the African community, long recognised as a key factor driving the epidemic. A short video clip at www.StartsWithMe.org.uk explains how modern drug treatments reduce the level of virus in the body to an undetectable level, meaning someone with HIV who has tested and is on treatment is far less likely to pass the virus on than someone who remains undiagnosed.

 

Taku Mukiwa, Health Promotion Specialist for African communities at Terrence Higgins Trust said: “While a cure or vaccine for HIV remains out of reach, what many might not realise is that medical advances mean it is now within the grasp of Africans living in England to stop the virus in its tracks in this country. By getting as many people with HIV as possible tested and on effective treatment, we will see new infection rates fall rapidly.

 

“The latest figures suggest that the HIV epidemic is taking root among Africans here in the UK, with a higher proportion of transmissions taking place in this country than ever before. We can reverse this trend, but it only works if  all Africans, from individuals, to local groups, to community and faith leaders, get behind the campaign and share the message within their own networks. We all have responsibility to keep ourselves and our partners safe, so I would encourage Africans to sign up to the campaign today and prove that the battle to stop the spread of HIV will ultimately be won by each and every one of us.”

 

Africans are invited to sign up to It Starts With Me by visiting www.StartsWithMe.org.uk . From there, they can assess their sex life to find out when they should have their next HIV test, find the nearest place to take a test and order a free HIV postal testing kit. There will also be a dedicated Facebook page where people can join in the conversation, and share stories and online resources. People will be encouraged to champion the campaign by sharing Facebook posts, tweeting stories and spreading the word among their local communities.

 

HIV Prevention England is 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.

 

Ends

For press enquiries, please contact Jenny Cameron on (020) 7812 1625, or email jenny.cameron@tht.org.uk.

 

Reference

1 Rice BD et al. A new method to assign country of HIV infection among heterosexuals born abroad and diagnosed with HIV. AIDS 26: 1961-1966, September 2012.

 

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