New Research-Backed Campaign to Kick HIV Conversation Into Gear

Greater Than AIDS is getting real about HIV.

Presenting the personal stories of 25 young gay men, the group’s new #SpeakOutHIV campaign is trying to get people to “break the silence” around the affliction on social media, specifically during the two weeks between National Gay Men’s HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (which started on Sept. 27) and National Coming Out Day (Oct. 11).

To kick the campaign off, Greater Than AIDS made available a series of personal videos. The idea is to get others to emulate this sharing via Twitter, Facebook, or whatever other social media.

“Despite the continued impact of HIV, gay and bisexual men are not talking about HIV even with those closest to them,” said Tina Hoff, senior vice president and director of health communication and media partnerships, Kaiser Family Foundation, a co-founding partner in Greater Than AIDS. “#SpeakOutHIV is about promoting a more open dialogue about HIV in all aspects of life, in relationships, with health care providers and within the community generally.”

The campaign accompanies new research that shows gay and bisexual men accept that HIV’s a big deal, sure, but just not for them.

According to the results of a national survey from the Kaiser Family Foundation, more than half of gay and bisexual men are not “personally concerned about becoming infected, and relatively few report having been tested recently.”

“These survey results underscore the importance of getting the word out among gay and bisexual men about risk and new treatment and prevention options,” said Kaiser Family Foundation President and CEO Drew Altman.

Here are some other results of the survey (according to the Kaiser release):

  • Three in 10 gay and bisexual men say they were tested for HIV within the last year including 19 percent who report being tested within the last six months (these figures exclude the 10 percent who self-identify as HIV-positive).
  • Gay and bisexual men under the age of 35 are twice as likely as those who are older to report never having been tested for HIV
  • Only about a quarter know about PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis), a daily pill that people who are HIV-negative can take to lower their risk of becoming infected.
  • Eight in 10 say they have heard “only a little” or “nothing at all” about the new prevention option.
  • Less than half of gay and bisexual men are aware that the current guidelines for people with HIV are to start antiretroviral (ARV) treatment as soon as they are diagnosed, and only a quarter know about treatment as prevention.
  • More than half say that a doctor has never recommended they get tested for HIV, and six in 10 say they rarely or never discuss HIV when they visit their doctor.

The survey ran from July 17 to August 3 among a sample of 431 men ages 18 and older who self-identified as gay or bisexual. Interviews were conducted in English and Spanish.

“Once the courageous stories about coming out, HIV-diagnosis, isolation, self-esteem, and the like were shared, I learned from these young men that my story is not so uncommon,” said Jai, an HIV/AIDS educator from Dallas who helped facilitate a Washington, D.C., workshop through which the 25 men recorded their stories. “The stories and our shared experience linked us.”

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