Issue:  Vol. 44 / No. 51 / 18 December 2014
 

CDC launches new campaign to get gay and bi guys talking about HIV

Screen Shot 2014-05-21 at 2.00.05 PMWith HIV infection rates remaining stagnant in the U.S., federal health officials are trying to jump start a national dialogue about HIV prevention with gay and bisexual men.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention today (May 21) launched its latest campaign called “Start Talking. Stop HIV.”  Its focus is to promote gay and bisexual men to openly discuss HIV risk and prevention strategies with their sexual partners.

And as the posters for the campaign make clear, those strategies include PrEP, for pre-exposure prophylaxis, the once-a-day pill regimen that has been shown to be effective at reducing HIV infection rates. As the Bay Area Reporter noted on its blog last week, the CDC is now recommending that anyone at risk of contracting HIV should start taking the daily HIV prevention pill commonly known as Truvada.

“Given the range of HIV prevention options available today, talking about HIV prevention has never been more important for gay and bisexual men,” stated Dr. Jonathan Mermin, director of the CDC’s National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention. “Only after having open and honest conversations can partners make informed choices about which strategies will work for them. ‘Start Talking. Stop HIV.’ urges gay and bisexual men to break the silence and take control of their health.”

According to the CDC, gay and bisexual men account for more than half of the 1.1 million people living with HIV in the United States (57 percent, or an estimated 657,800 persons) and approximately two-thirds of all new HIV infections each year (66 percent, or an estimated 31,400 infections).

Young (ages 13-24) men who have sex with men, especially young black MSM, are at particularly high risk for HIV, according to CDC data. Despite this heavy burden, a recent CDC study of gay and bisexual men in 20 cities found that 37 percent did not know the HIV status of their last male partner.

The new ad campaign is designed to reach gay and bisexual men of all races and ethnicities in all types of relationships, from casual to long-term. Created in consultation with more than 500 gay and bisexual men, it features real-world individuals and couples talking about HIV.

“Talking to your partner about HIV is one of the most important conversations you can have, but it’s not always an easy one,” stated Scott Johnson, a campaign participant. “To anybody getting into a new relationship: Start talking immediately. There’s no reason to be embarrassed or silent about anything.”

Campaign messages will appear nationwide in print and online ads, in billboard and transit advertising in key cities, and at Pride and other community events across the country. It also includes a number of short videos posted online.

— Matthew S. Bajko, May 21, 2014 @ 2:16 pm PST
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