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Friday, 8 March, 2002, 15:53 GMT
Charity targets HIV prejudice
Aids ribbon
Many of those infected with HIV are unaware of the fact
Campaigners are predicting a massive increase in the number of gay men diagnosed with HIV in Edinburgh if more agree to be tested for the virus.

It is estimated that about half of the gay men who have contracted the virus in the Scottish capital are unaware that they are HIV positive.

Now community workers have launched a campaign which aims to dispel the prejudice which is stopping many people from coming forward to be tested.

Edinburgh-based charity Gay Men's Health will be working with men who have been diagnosed with HIV and other people in the community to get the message across in the Testing Barriers campaign.

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The aim is to promote testing among gay men to hopefully create an atmosphere where people feel confident about going forward for a test

Bruce Fraser
Gay Men's Health
Manager Bruce Fraser said there had been a steady but undramatic increase in the number of cases of HIV - the virus which leads to Aids - in recent years.

"If we have been successful, in a year's time we will see a massive increase in new infections among gay men," said Mr Fraser.

"The reason being that more gay men will be getting tested.

"The figures will show that increase, but we can then start working on not having new infections."

Scottish Voluntary HIV and Aids Forum co-ordinator Roy Kilpatrick said the levels of infection amongst gay men had fallen slightly in recent years.

Gay community

By bringing together Scottish Centre for Infection and Environmental Health figures compiled from anonymous blood tests and the results of voluntary testing, he said it was estimated that one in 25 gay men were HIV positive in Edinburgh.

It is believed that about 50% of those men are unaware of their status.

Another study carried out last year identified a fear of diagnosis.

This was largely based on the prejudice that people had seen experienced by other HIV positive men in the gay community.

Gay men
Prejudice has been highlighted within the gay community
Gay Men's Health is now setting up a new post which will work towards combatting that discrimination.

"The aim is to promote testing among gay men to hopefully create an atmosphere where people feel confident about going forward for a test," said Mr Fraser.

While heterosexuals diagnosed with the condition were often able to keep that a secret, gossip about a positive test spread quickly with in the city's small gay community.

Those affected have found themselves being pointed out in bars and can face difficulty interacting with other people.

"We are a gay community organisation and we are saying that there is prejudice out there," said Mr Fraser.

'Back to basics'

"There are lots of people experiencing it and we want to start talking about it and get it out in the open."

The campaign will aim to encourage more people to come forward for testing - while also getting "back to basics" in getting across the message about how HIV can be transmitted.

"We have managed to halt figures from rising too much, but now there is an absolute determination to get the figures down," added Mr Fraser.

Mr Kilpatrick also voiced support for the campaign, and stressed that diagnosis was crucial to improving the health of the individual concerned.

See also:

27 Jul 01 | Health
'You are HIV positive'
27 Jul 01 | Health
Fight steps up on sexual diseases
18 May 00 | Scotland
Tables turn in HIV stakes
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