Boyz Magazine 1300 - Page 11

Photos by Captain Jack You’ve always championed the safer sex message by promoting condom use and testing – what is your position on PrEP? In the past decade, over 6,000 people were diagnosed with HIV each year in the UK. In 2014, over half of those were gay or bisexual men. Recent PrEP trials in Britain and France showed that, when taken properly, the drugs are very effective at preventing HIV transmission. Those are the headline facts, and they represent a huge breakthrough in HIV science. With that in mind, it’s clear why PrEP is so exciting as a new, powerful addition to our “menu” of preventative options. That is especially true for some gay men who, for various reasons, find consistent condom use difficult and for whom regular testing is not offering enough protection. Yet last week’s news coverage of the High Court decision – when a judge ruled that NHS England’s has the legal authority to commission PrEP – revealed something deeper about British attitudes towards HIV and gay men. Accusing the drugs of “encouraging promiscuity” and causing “immoral behaviour”, some media commentary reminded us how deeply controversial issues of sex in general, and gay sex in particular, are in society. In some newspapers, the life-changing health benefits of PrEP were sidelined by a kind of moral panic that pitted other illnesses against HIV prevention and stereotyped gay men, despite numerous experts insisting the drugs were regarded as a welcome game-changer, but not a magic cure. In that way, it was media reporting about PrEP which revealed a key lesson for Do It London: that much more is still needed to educate the public about HIV, address stigma and get the right information to those who need it most. That’s what true combination prevention is about. How will PrEP feature in the London HIV Prevention Programme – if at all? It’s still not available on the NHS, as NHS England is appealing the court decision and might still decide not to commission it at all. Meanwhile, as London councils come together to make the case for continuing the LHPP after April 2017 (when the current programme is up for renewal), our focus is on the public health evidence base for all available prevention methods. That means making the strong case for future campaigns and outreach work, for continuing to provide millions of free Do It London condoms and lubricant to MSM, and for ensuring HIV remains a priority for the capital, given our epidemiology. Our campaign tagline – “Test and Protect to Prevent HIV” – speaks to the real diversity of prevention, including PrEP, because different elements work for different people at varying stages of their sexual relationships. What more could MPs do to improve sexual health services in London? The Health and Social Care Act 2012 took responsibility for providing public health services (including sexual health) from NHS Trusts and placed it with local authorities. That means local councillors – arguably more than MPs – are the most influential politicians when it comes to sexual health. But MPs still have a huge role to play in advocating for the importance of adequate funding and quality services in their constituencies. They also have big local profiles, which can be really useful in promoting issues like HIV testing and prevention to target communities. We’d welcome more London MPs getting involved in backing Do It London; after all, it’s unique in being funded by both Conservative and Labour councils across the city. We have a long way to go just to make sure it continues beyond next year at present! Despite all its initial success, the London programme is, like all council services, subject to the challenging financial situation in local government. I would urge Boyz readers to tell us what they value about the programme, from its free condom and lube scheme, to scene-based outreach services, to the big Do It London campaigns. Get in touch via Twitter (@doitldn), Facebook ( and Instagram (DoItLdn). Finally, let me say thanks to you at Boyz for promoting the campaign so positively. And another massive thank you to the many bars, clubs, saunas, outreach teams and other scene stalwarts who help the London HIV Prevention Programme to deliver – day in, day out. boyz 11.8.2016 10 Paul Steinberg 1300.indd 2 11 09/08/2016 14:55