It’s a sad fact that gay and bisexual black men are disproportionately affected by HIV.

It’s another sad fact that gay and bisexual black men are severely under-represented, not only in mainstream media but also in LGBT media and in LGBT health campaigns. This is why GMFA - the gay men’s health charity, decided to tackle this issue head on, with Me. Him. Us.

Me. Him. Us. was created by BAME gay and bisexual men for BAME gay and bisexual men, with a particular focus (for now, at least) on black gay and bisexual men.

Why is a campaign like this needed? Let’s take a look....


We looked at the results of the ‘How Risky Am I?’ survey conducted by GMFA as part of the Rise Partnership, which has been taken by over 10,000 gay and bisexual men.

WE ASKED THE HIV STATUS OF THOSE WHO RESPONDED TO THE SURVEY:

  • 9% of black gay and bisexual men said they were HIV-positive
  • 7% of white gay and bisexual men said they were HIV-positive
  • 19% of black men didn’t know their HIV status
  • 15% of white men didn’t know their HIV status.

WE ASKED THOSE WHO SAID THEY ARE HIV-POSITIVE ABOUT THEIR TREATMENT:

  • 71% of black men said they were HIV-undetectable
  • 91% of white men said they were HIV-undetectable
  • 13% of black men said they were not on treatment
  • 7% of white men said they were not on treatment.

WE ASKED THOSE WHO RESPONDED WHEN THEIR LAST HIV TEST WAS:

  • 59% of black men said in the last 12 months, compared to 55% of white men
  • 10% of black men had an HIV test in the last 1-2 years, compared to 12% of white men
  • 11% of black men said their last test was over 2 years ago, compared to 14% of white men
  • 20% of black men have never had an HIV test, compared to 19% of white men.

WE ASKED THOSE WHO RESPONDED IF THEY KNEW WHERE THEY COULD GET AN HIV TEST:

  • 10% of black men said no
  • 8% of white men said no.

In 2017, we conducted a survey with 861 respondents called Race and the Gay Community, in which we asked questions about representation of people of colour.

WE ASKED: DO YOU FEEL THAT DIFFERENT ETHNICITIES HAVE VISIBILITY AND ARE FAIRLY REPRESENTED IN LGBT MEDIA?

  • 71% of black men said no
  • 14% said they weren’t sure.

“There aren’t enough minorities/black men and men of colour being shown in the gay media. This isn’t being real to the world we live in today, as there are many forms of beauty in all shapes and colours,” says Steve, 35.

“The gay community is dominated with the experiences of white gay men. Experiences outside of that narrative are often pushed aside or lost within that narrative. This makes other voices muted,” believes Mike, 25.

So what do these inequalities mean for black gay and bisexual men and how can we rectify them? Ian Howley, Chief Executive of HERO - Health Equality and Rights Organisation, the parent organisation of GMFA, explains:

“Over the last few years, HERO has been working closely with the BAME LGBT+ community. One of the issues that kept on coming up was the lack of representation, especially in mass media health promotion campaigns. At HERO we listened and we wanted to act on this feedback.

“Me. Him. Us. is focused on representation, but it also has another important message. Black and minority gay and bisexual men are more likely to be diagnosed with HIV and at a later stage too. It’s important that we increase the need for frequent testing for HIV and STIs for black gay and bisexual men. At HERO we recommend that all sexually active men are tested for HIV every six months. Early diagnosis of HIV infection enables better treatment for you and reduces the risk of transmitting the infection to others.

Marc Thompson, Co-Editor of BlackOutUK, who worked as an advisor on the Me. Him. Us. campaign, explains: “Most of health professionals don’t like to admit it, but reflecting diverse audiences can be challenging for them. It’s difficult, especially if you don’t come from those communities or understand how to reach us effectively. The lack of visibility of men from black, Asian and other ethnic minority communities in sexual health promotion has been well documented as having an impact on BAME men’s sexual health and risk taking, which ultimately plays a role in the disproportionate rates of HIV infection in this population.

“This is why the Me. Him. Us. campaign is so important. It was created by BAME gay and bisexual men for BAME gay and bisexual men. This campaign speaks to us. The imagery is beautiful and it shows black men being loving, caring and compassionate with each other. It reflects the community as it really is. It’s what we need and it’s the work we deserve in our community. The work should represent us.”

Marc goes on to explain the importance of Me. Him. us. beyond the promotion of HIV testing: “Although it will increase testing and awareness, it will do something much more important. Young men from the diverse range of Black, Asian and other minority ethnic communities, and young black gay men in particular, will see themselves represented in a mass media sexual health campaign. We hope the campaign will inspire more young black gay men get tested, take care of themselves and their partners and engage with the work we do in our communities to improve the health of all of us.”

Phil Samba, a star of the campaign and key to its development explains why he wanted to get involved: 

“As a black gay man, I don’t feel accurately represented at all in media or the gay community. There is currently very few positive black male role models that steer away from stereotypes and there are even fewer that are gay. Black gay men are atrociously misrepresented as either being aggressive and hypersexual. When I was younger I never saw anyone who was like me on TV or heard anyone on the radio who was like me either, and I think honest visibility and representation is so important for young black boys to feel comfortable in their sexuality however they see fit.”

Ian concludes: “It’s important that BAME people have a platform to create personal and social change in our community. Although this campaign will run for at least three months, this is just the beginning. HERO will continue to work closely with BAME LGBT+ people to build on this work, develop it further and help make a positive change in our community.”


Find out more about Me. Him. Us. at www.mehimus.org.uk


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