In the 1980s and 90s, even into the treatment era of this century, I lost so many friends as a result of HIV that I eventually had to stop counting. Some died, not as a result of the ravages of the virus but because they were unable to cope with their diagnosis and chose to end their own lives. These memories are with me all year round. On World AIDS Day I try to give myself the time to think of these friends and mourn them.
But we have not yet reached the point where World AIDS Day is just for remembrance.
In the UK alone 65 gay and bisexual men are diagnosed with HIV every week. The prospects for those of us living with HIV are much better today but all too often we face stigma, whether it’s rejection by our family or some mean, thoughtless comment on a gay dating app.
Stigmatising people with HIV discourages men from testing and accessing the treatment that can save their lives and make them less likely to transmit the virus to their sexual partners. Stigma discourages gay and bisexual men from having honest discussions about HIV status and past risk behaviour. This is why it's so vital that we bring an end to HIV stigma by dispelling the ignorance and fear that still surrounds this virus.
At GMFA we have seen that we can change the way that our community thinks about HIV and HIV risk by providing information in a frank and accessible way. GMFA’s education work improves gay men’s sexual health and challenges HIV stigma. The support we get from the gay community, and from those people who value our communities, makes this work possible.
I look forward to the day when we hit zero new HIV infections. I look forward to the days when the lives of people living with HIV are not blighted by ignorant attitudes. I look forward to the day when we mark World AIDS Day by honouring those we lost, who were not able to benefit from the life-saving treatment we now have. We’re not there yet.
This World AIDS Day you can help GMFA to provide thousands of gay men with honest sexual health information and to challenge HIV stigma by supporting us.
Thank you.
You can support GMFA this World AIDS Day by texting GMFA15 £1, £2, £3, £4, £5 or £10 to 70070

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