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“Do it your way” - new HIV prevention campaign launches in London

  • By Gemma Kappala-R...

London boroughs have launched a new phase of their groundbreaking HIV prevention campaign, known as Do It London. 

The new Do It London campaign, which will run until early 2018, uses simple and clear imagery to inform the public of the variety of options for avoiding transmission of HIV through sexual contact, based on the latest scientific evidence on HIV prevention.

The campaign encourages Londoners to “do it your way” by advocating that HIV prevention consists of a combination of options, including using condoms, testing regularly for the virus, using Pre Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) and, for people who have been diagnosed HIV positive, achieving an “undetectable” viral load through the use of antiretroviral medication. 

Today’s campaign follows two years of successful Do It London social marketing to promote HIV testing and safer sex in the capital. During that same period, HIV diagnoses in the capital dropped dramatically, with a record 40 per cent reduction in new diagnoses in five central London clinics. Such a dramatic fall was not observed in the rest of England. 

The campaign appears just weeks before the launch of a new NHS Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) trial which will make the preventative drugs (taken by HIV-negative people to protect against the virus) available to groups considered at high risk of HIV, such as men who have sex with men, at no cost from sexual health clinics. 

The campaign also introduces the concept of achieving an “undetectable” HIV status. Recent scientific studies have shown that people with diagnosed HIV, on medical treatment with an “undetectable viral load”, cannot pass the virus on to their sexual partners.

“Undetectable” means that the virus, whilst still present in the body, is effectively suppressed and no longer detectable in standard blood tests. Therefore, being “undetectable” means a person cannot transmit HIV through sex. 

Cllr Kevin Davis, London Councils’ Executive member for health, said: 

“I am very proud of Do It London’s achievements in reducing HIV in the capital since the campaign began in 2015 after public health responsibilities were devolved to the boroughs. Its success is also supporting ambitious international efforts to end the global HIV epidemic by 2030.

“HIV remains a serious public health issue for London and the new Do It London campaign demonstrates that London boroughs are taking a collective pan-London approach to addressing this. 

“In these difficult financial times, Londoners can be proud that their councils are leading this important work via a dedicated city-wide HIV prevention programme.”

Paul Steinberg, Lead Commissioner of the London HIV Prevention Programme said: 

“This new campaign is rooted in clear and emerging evidence that combination prevention is having a positive impact in reducing HIV transmission in London. Do It London has made a major contribution to the substantial increases in HIV testing in the city, with very positive consequences for early diagnosis, treatment and prevention.

“We are very pleased that this new campaign also publicises PrEP and undetectable status for the first time, as part of a combination of measures to prevent HIV. We are proud to support the NHS PrEP Impact Trial, as we build towards our strategic goal of eliminating onward transmission of the virus.” 

The Do It London campaign will appear across the transport network, on social media and via tie-in partnerships on radio and in print press. Accompanied by a newly updated website, doitlondon.org, which provides detailed information about each HIV prevention choice, the campaign continues to be supported by the Do It London condom scheme, which provides over 1 million free condoms every year, as well as sexual health outreach work in London’s gay pubs, bars and clubs. 

Independent evaluation of last year’s Do It London campaign, conducted by Research Now, found that over 68 per cent of people who had seen the campaign reported it had positively influenced their behaviour towards HIV testing, whilst 66 per cent felt it had influenced their sexual behaviour (e.g. practicing safe sex). These encouraging evaluation results are also reflected in data from Public Health England revealing ongoing reductions in undiagnosed HIV and late diagnosis. 

Visit doitlondon.org or @doitldn on Twitter. Click here to download campaign artwork

ENDS

Notes to Editors:

1. Do It London is the public campaign of the London HIV Prevention Programme (LHPP), a unique partnership of 30 boroughs and the City of London which is delivered on their behalf by Lambeth Council. Frontline partners across the voluntary sector and the NHS deliver sexual health promotion outreach to men who have sex with men, and a free condom distribution scheme across more than sixty gay clubs, bars and pubs in the capital. 

2. London Councils represents London’s 32 councils and the City of London. It is a cross-party organisation that works on behalf of all of its member authorities regardless of political persuasion. It also runs a number of direct services for member authorities including the Freedom Pass.

3. Borough contributions to the LHPP are calculated according to the prevalence of HIV in their area, with annual contributions ranging from less than £2,000 to more than £115,000 per year. The total budget for the LHPP is £1 million.

4. The NHS PrEP Impact Trial will be made available via sexual health clinics to those considered at high risk of HIV infection. It is a three year NHS trial that aims to provide PrEP to an estimated 10,000 people who are assessed as being at high risk of contact with HIV. Link to the NHS England PrEP Trial press release: https://www.england.nhs.uk/2017/08/nhs-england-announces-worlds-largest-single-prep-implementation-trial-to-prevent-hiv-infection/

5. If a person is “Undetectable” they have been infected by HIV but have been taking antiretroviral medication so that HIV is no longer detectable in their system by standard tests. A number of studies have confirmed that someone with an undetectable viral load cannot pass on HIV to their sexual partner. Link to the Undetectable Consensus Statement: https://www.preventionaccess.org/consensus 

6. The new Do It London campaign is aligned with a worldwide HIV awareness initiative known as “U=U” - Undetectable=Untransmittable. For more information about the U=U initiative, visit https://www.preventionaccess.org/about

7. Enquiries about Do It London should be addressed to Paul Steinberg, [email protected] or 07932 761 910. Enquiries about London Councils should be addressed to Gemma Kappala-Ramsamy, [email protected] or 020 7934 9842.