Figures released released this week show HIV levels are at their 'highest ever' in gay and bisexual men. The figures - uncovered from research by the Health Protection Agency - show more than 3000 diagnoses of men who have sex with men (MSM) in 2010.
The stats come as the world marks the 24th annual Worlds Aids Day, founded after the rapid spread of the viral disease during the 1980s. But new figures have found the rate of HIV amongst British MSM has climbed to the highest since records began, making up 69% of all Brits diagnosed HIV positive in the last year. In London, it's estimated 1 in 7 gay men are now HIV positive, whilst a quarter of those remain unaware of their status.
'Thirty years ago, AIDS devastated gay communities across the UK, but also gave rise to an unprecedented community response', Paul Ward, Terrence Higgins Trust deputy chief executive said. 'Effective drug treatments have made it possible for someone diagnosed with HIV today to live a long, healthy life, but that doesn’t mean we can take our foot off the gas.'
In a bid to tackle the rise, the trust has launched a new 'Clever Dick' campaign aimed at reminding the gay community of the need to take precautions. It's thought the increase is in part due to a more relaxed approach as concern about contraction of the viral infection has decreased. 'HIV isn’t happening somewhere else or happening to other people; it’s happening right now, and the people who have or are at risk of contracting HIV are our friends, our lovers, and the guys who work on the scene,' said Ward, 'HIV affects all of us and it’s up to all of us to stop the spread of HIV in our community.'
Events will be taking place across the country to mark the day of awareness. G-A-Y owner Jeremy Joseph will be turning London's G-A-Y Bar into a testing clinic, in a bid to set a new world record for the most HIV tests in 10 hours. "We need to set a culture that being tested is normal", the Soho club owner said. The company has also pledged to donate £10 for every person tested to the Elton John AIDS Foundation.
Vigils will also be held across the country, with the largest being held in London's Soho. It has also become customary since Bill Clinton for the US President to deliver a World Aids Day address to highlight the plight as it affects the developed and developing world.
More information on the Terrence Higgins Trust campaign can be found at www.clever-dick.org