Me. Him. Us. A community approach to tackling HIV
GMFA’s HIV testing campaign – Me. Him. Us. – has returned to the streets of London.
The campaign, which was developed by and for black gay and bisexual men, will appear on a digital billboards in Lambeth, and on digital advertising hubs across East London.
First launched in March 2018, GMFA – the gay men’s health project – has launched a second phase of the Me. Him. Us. campaign, focusing on community, representation, and home-testing for HIV.
GMFA brought together 17 young black gay men to lead in the latest iteration of the campaign and to effect a positive change in their community, as well as making sure that black gay men are properly represented in sexual health campaigns.
“The reason I took part in Me. Him. Us. again was to build on last year’s success…” explained Marc Thompson, Co-Editor of BlackoutUK. “The first Me. Him. Us. campaign focused on the role of the individual, but with the new campaign we have a larger group of men, so it was really about stressing the importance of community involvement and how we can all play a part in ending HIV.”
“The day of the photo shoot was powerful and moving…” added Thompson. “We had 17 black gay men who came together to make a difference in their community. They wanted to make sure that their diversity was represented. It highlighted that the needs of black gay men, and the fact we are disproportionally effected by HIV, is still at the forefront of the work we do. Leading these campaigns and being represented is still incredibly important.”
“It’s important for us black men to take care of our sexual health and get tested regularly because sadly we are disproportionately affected by HIV…” said Phil Samba, an activist and writer. “We deserve to have the sex we want, which is right for us, with the least amount of harm. If other queer men are the main source of sexual health information for queer men, it is extremely vital that we all teach ourselves and others about all the preventative tools available today, how they work and how to access them. Black queer men especially need to be able to have open and honest conversations de-stigmatising sexual health among themselves and their friends from different backgrounds.”
“I originally wanted to do the campaign because it’s something fresh and new…” said Gus, one of the participant-leads of the Me. Him. Us. project. “You don’t see it every day. It’s nice to finally be represented in a positive way. Usually you don’t see black men in a photo shoot or a campaign when you’re walking down the street. It’s refreshing to be shown in a positive way too, and not just seen in a negative stereotype. It’s something beautiful to be a part of, knowing that we are helping to effect a change.”
“It was empowering to be surrounded by so many young gay black men who are so passionate about spreading awareness of HIV testing…” added Tre, one of the project’s participant-leads. “Everyone who took part in the shoot came from a variety of different backgrounds and it’s powerful to see the representation of people from the gay black community from all different parts of the country as well. I think it’s really important for young gay black men, especially for people who might be struggling with their own identity, to see people that look like them on billboards and social media, talking about the important of getting tested.”
“When Me. Him. Us. launched last year, we saw something that I’ve never seen in HIV prevention…” said Ian HOwley, Chief Executive of GMFA. “There was a movement behind Me. Him. Us. – black gay men felt emotionally connected to this work and helped us spread the campaign’s important message about looking after your own health, your partner’s health and your community’s health to over five million people. I was delighted that we were able to continue this important work in partnership with black gay and bisexual men. These men deserve more than one-off campaigns or to be involved in a tokenistic way without any say. And they deserve to create work that is by them, for them, and empowers their community.”