A UK sexual health charity has launched a new campaign aiming to increase testing among black gay men.
The campaign, called ‘Me. Him. Us.‘, from GMFA has been developed entirely by gay and bisexual men of color.
Ian Howley, the Chief Executive of HERO – Health Equality and Rights Organisation, the parent organization of GMFA, says:
‘One of the issues that kept on coming up was the lack of representation. Especially in mass media health promotion campaigns.’
But in this new campaign – from the concept to the models and design – people of color made it ‘at a grassroots level.’
Marc Thompson is the Co-Editor of BlackoutUK and is an advisor on the campaign.
He believes that although most of the health professionals don’t like to admit it, reflecting diverse audiences can be challenging for them. And that’s why you see less representation of black people in these style of campaigns:
‘It’s difficult, especially if you don’t come from those communities or understand how to reach us effectively. There is a lack of visibility of black, Asian and other ethnic minority communities in sexual health promotion. And it is having an impact on their sexual health and risk-taking. Which ultimately plays a role in the disproportionate rates of HIV infection in this population.’
Thompson says the beautiful imagery showing black men being loving, caring and compassionate with each other will make a huge difference:
‘It reflects the community as it really is. It’s what we need and it’s the work we deserve in our community. The work should represent us.’
The campaign hopes to inspire young people of color to get an HIV test
The main focus of the campaign is to drive up testing. But it also has another message, which Thompson says is much more important.
‘Young men from the diverse range of Black, Asian and other minority ethnic communities and young black gay men, in particular, will see themselves represented in a mass media sexual health campaign.’
Phil Samba, one of the models in the adverts, says he got involved due to this lack of representation:
‘As a black gay man, I personally do not feel accurately represented at all in media or the gay community. There is already a small amount of positive black male role models that steer away from stereotypes and there are even fewer that are gay.
‘Misrepresentation of black gay men is atrocious, showing them as either being aggressive or hypersexual. When I was younger I never saw anyone who was like me on TV. I think honest visibility and representation is so important for young black boys to feel comfortable in their sexuality, however they see fit.’
People of color gay and bisexual men are more likely to be diagnosed with HIV. Therefore, they are more likely to get a diagnosis at a much later stage.
And that’s why Howley, from the sexual health charity, is urging all gay and bi men to get tests for HIV and STIs frequently.
‘At HERO we recommend that all sexually active men are tested for HIV every six months. Early diagnosis of HIV infection enables better treatment for you and reduces the risk of transmitting the infection to others. ‘
Posters will appear on high streets in South London, LGBT+ venues across the capital and on social media.