Phil Samba, star of the Me.Him.Us campaign and part of the campaign's development group, breaks down why HIV testing is so important for black gay men.

Life is difficult enough with the intersection of being black and gay or bisexual; we're already a minority within a minority lacking positive and honest visibility and representation. Also, compared with the white British majority, we are more likely to suffer from mental health problems, self-harm and report suicidal thoughts. On top of this, across the world we are faced with discrimination, cultural norms valuing masculinity, and threats of violence or incarceration which keep us at high prevalence.

I think it is important for us black men to take care of our sexual health and get tested regularly because sadly we are disproportionately affected by HIV universally and worldwide.

Black men have remained significantly more likely to report diagnosis than white British men and there has been a year-on-year increase in UK HIV diagnoses among black African men for over a decade. Black Africans in the UK are also more likely to be diagnosed late with advanced HIV because either they don't test regularly enough or at all, this means that by the time they are diagnosed their immune systems are already badly damaged. The number of diagnoses has fallen for the first time ever but this drop has been in men who have sex with men and not Black Africans.

Getting tested is extremely important because the transmission of some STIs are very difficult to prevent, even if you are practising safer sex. Testing is absolutely vital in reducing HIV transmission as it decreases the number of people living with undiagnosed HIV, if they are undiagnosed they could be unknowingly passing on the virus without even knowing they have it.

No matter what ethnicity you are, all gay and bi men should get tested regularly for STIs every six months or every three months, depending on the type of sex you have and how many partners you have. Many STIs are easily cured or can be vaccinated against, however you could have an STI without knowing. Having one STI can make others easier to catch; for example, if you are HIV-positive, other STIs can make it more likely that you'll pass on HIV if you have sex without condoms. If you are HIV-negative, having another STI can make you more vulnerable to HIV infection.

There's another reason testing for HIV regularly is important: the earlier you're diagnosed the sooner you can begin treatment. Someone who is on effective medication for HIV can live a long, healthy life. When someone is diagnosed with HIV their viral load is high which means they can pass on HIV. However, with effective treatment, viral load can be made so low that it is not detectable in a blood test - this is what is called HIV-undetectable. That means you can't pass on HIV through sex.

I understand that the subject of sex can be difficult for some but despite the huge improvements and all the HIV prevention tools available today, there's been no change in the number of adults getting HIV worldwide and this urgently needs to change. Testing and treatment is private and confidential and must be made to be as normal as seeing your GP or going to the dentist for a check-up. Getting tested is about being in control of your sexual health for yourself, for your partners and for our community. Book an appointment today if you are due for a check-up then please empower and encourage all the black men you know to do the same.

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