London boroughs today launch 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.
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 at no cost from sexual health clinics, considered at high risk of HIV, such as men who have sex with men.
The campaign also introduces the concept of achieving an “undetectable” HIV status. Recent scientific studies have confirmed that the risk of acquiring HIV from an infected person who takes antiretroviral medication, with an undetectable viral load (UVL) in their blood for at least six months, is negligible to non-existent.
“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, added: “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, www.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.