As we celebrate another year of LGBT history, we reflect on how far as a community we have come, the issues we have had to deal with and how it has changed us, not only personally but as a nation.
This month we have been treated to a 5 part series that really brings home the attitude towards the gay culture in the ’80s and the AIDS epidemic which became the 4th biggest cause of death worldwide, poignantly depicted in ‘It’s a sin’. The evocative series reflects on the issues affecting young gay men, specifically in the London area. The series itself is incredibly raw. The viewer is left exposed to pretty much everything. It is almost like a fly on the wall. From steamy sex scenes to cold corpses of once loved, life and souls of the party, you can not dodge the emotional rollercoaster which writer and creator Russell T Davies puts before you.
With one viewer commenting, “it was more than just a history lesson on AIDS. It highlights the incurable human condition of fear, to be so fearful of something we dismiss it completely. Fear kills hundreds of thousands of people each year. Women who miss smear tests, and men unwilling to speak out about mental health and, above all else, fear drives conspiracies and judgemental attitudes. Fear is the truest most deadly disease that exists. Take, for example, the divide on COVID, the conspiracies behind the source and the vaccine. People are dying, and more so needlessly, due to fear. It’s like we haven’t learnt anything from historic events”. Ironically, fear is also the one thing that unites us”.
This theory was highlighted in episode 3 when Ritchie breaks out into song dismissing AIDS as a government coverup created in labs to “kill off gays” and a money-making scheme for drug companies.
It is again highlighted towards the end of the series when Ritchie is too scared to face the results of his own HIV test.
Heard it all before?
Here are some HIV/AIDS Q&A’s from our social media followers.
What exactly is HIV?
HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. It’s this virus that can spread from person to person through blood or body fluids such as semen, vaginal fluid and breast milk.
It is not passed through saliva, bleeding gums or mouth sores can increase risk.
The virus damages the immune system, weakening your ability to fight off other infections and diseases such as bacterial and fungal infections. Over time, it increases the risk of certain cancers developing.
What exactly is AIDS?
AIDS stands for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. This is a complication of HIV that fortunately, due to antiretroviral treatments, we don’t see as often as we used to.
Is HIV still deadly?
As seen in ‘It’s a sin’ back in the ’80s and early ’90s, HIV and AIDS were death sentences.
As it was a completely new disease and not enough was known about it, it took some time to develop effective medication to treat it.
Whilst there is still no cure for HIV, antiretroviral medication can control the virus successfully in most people.
An estimated 105,200 people in the UK live entirely normal and healthy lives with their HIV controlled by Antiretroviral drugs.
Someone who is on successful treatment and has an undetectable viral load, cannot transmit the virus to sexual partners (undetectable=untransmittable/U=U)
How do I know if I have HIV?
Some people will develop flu-like symptoms about four weeks after infection.
Symptoms include –
- Fever and chills
- Sore throat
- Body rash
- Joint pain
- Swollen glands
- Muscle pain
It is also worth noting that HIV may not cause any symptoms and go undetected for many years. This is why we advise all our patients at the clinic to test for HIV at least once. It is much better to know one’s status and get earlier treatment.
Earlier diagnosis and treatment of HIV can help you live a long and healthy life, with HIV.
When should I be tested, and how long should I leave it between tests?
You should consider getting a test straight away if you haven’t already had a test before at the start and or the end of a relationship.
Sexually active men and women, who are having casual sex with different or multiple partners should ideally get screened every 3-6 months.
Less sexually active men and women should consider being tested at least once yearly.
Intravenous drug users are also at high risk and should be tested every 6-9 months.
There is no need to be frightened of HIV
In 1986 the British government launched a public health campaign in response to the rise in HIV and AIDS in the UK.
The sobering and sinister campaign ‘Don’t Die of Ignorance’ which cost 5 million pounds, was met by mixed reviews. It faced accusations of panic-mongering, yet, it was hailed to be the most successful campaign to date – although I am sure COVID would now have surpassed that title?
Today, we have changed how we approach these subjects, which can and will affect us all eventually. And, such as with COVID-19, campaigns focus on awareness and education.
Although we are still learning and adapting, attitudes have changed as a nation we are more accepting, more caring and more inclusive. There is no need to feel alone or frightened.
It is really important to acknowledge that we are fortunate to have the finances to allow good health care and access to the world’s top medications with the freedom to explore those benefits as a nation.
HIV/AIDS, is still one of the world’s most serious public health challenges, especially in resource-poor countries such as Africa, with East and Southern Africa being the most affected by HIV in the world.
There are over 25 million people with HIV in Africa, a country that still lacks access to care, treatment and protection against sexual illnesses.
Areas which are hit hard, also suffer from stigma and discrimination. In more rural areas, people are brutally beaten and murdered, which is incomprehensible. This can have long-term devastating effects on small towns and villages by impacting development and economic growth, thus plaguing them further in life.
This horrific issue is also touched upon during the start of the ‘It’s a sin’ series when Roscoe walks out of his London family home while his family plan to have him taken back to his family home of Nigeria. Roscoe’s father later describes the horrific circumstances he witnessed in his home country, which forced him to change his entire view of homosexuality.
It is important not only to remember those who are still suffering worldwide but also to raise awareness and fight for those who are still robbed of their voice.
Sexual health service for the LGBT community here in London
If you are looking for further help or advice, please click on the links below or simply get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I have over 21 years of experience providing sexual health screening and advice on men’s health. I offer a completely confidential, professional, non-judgemental service from start to end. If you are worried about HIV or any sexual health condition, simply get in touch today. All of our services are designed around your comfort, from home testing, video and phone consultations, to face to face appointments, we are here for you.
Remember, if you are just looking for some advice, we accept questions through social media and direct email contact which, when, and if we can, we will answer through our publications. Everything we publish is completely confidential and non-judgemental.
Latest updates on the HIV/AIDS crisis in Africa
Africa has seen some significant improvements but remained a major public health issue. Increased access to antiretroviral therapy, widespread awareness campaigns, and better healthcare infrastructure have contributed to a decline in new HIV infections and AIDS-related deaths in the region. However, Sub-Saharan Africa still accounts for the majority of new infections and deaths globally, and challenges such as stigma, limited access to healthcare, and inadequate funding persist. Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic has strained healthcare systems and disrupted HIV services, potentially causing setbacks in the fight against the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
If you want to know more about the HIV crisis in Africa or lend your support visit – www.actionaid.org.uk