HIV campaign helps Londoners make safer sex choices

  • By JackGraves

The groundbreaking Do It London campaign has dramatically boosted public awareness of the choices available for preventing HIV transmission through sexual contact, according to an independent evaluation.

The new research into Do It London’s impact reveals that the most recent phase of the campaign (which ran from August 2017 to February 2018) successfully raised Londoners’ awareness of the HIV combination prevention options available: 

  • 73 per cent of those who saw the Do It London’s campaign felt it had influenced their behaviour towards HIV testing  
  • 64 per cent who saw the Do It London campaign felt it had positively influenced their sexual behaviour.

Do It London, which is run by London’s boroughs, was the first official public campaign in the UK to advertise Pre Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) and ‘undetectable’ HIV status as core HIV prevention options alongside more recognised methods such as condom use and regular testing. 

PrEP is a pill that can protect against HIV infection. Taking PrEP involves either taking one pill per day or what is called ‘event based’ dosing (taking PrEP before and after condomless sex). PrEP is for people who are HIV-negative but at high risk of infection. Results from a number of trials show that PrEP is highly effective in preventing HIV transmission.

‘Undetectable’ is the term used to describe the HIV viral load of someone on effective antiretroviral treatment. People with diagnosed HIV can achieve an ‘undetectable’ status through proper adherence to medication. This treatment leads to an undetectable viral load, meaning the virus cannot be passed on to sexual partners.

The Do It London campaign was launched in 2015 by London’s boroughs in response to the high rates of HIV and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in the capital. Of the 20 local authorities in England with the largest number of new STI diagnoses in 2016, 17 were in London. An estimated 38,700 people were living with HIV in London in 2016 – this represents 43 per cent of all people living with HIV in England.

Do It London’s messages have been shared in 17,000 street-side adverts, 26,000 ad panels inside London Underground trains and buses, and have been seen across 55 million digital display impressions on Londoners’ mobiles, tablets, and laptops.  

Since the campaign started in spring 2015, London has witnessed a dramatic drop in the number of people being diagnosed with HIV, with a record 40 per cent reduction in new diagnoses in five central London clinics. This reduction has not occurred on the same scale in the rest of England.

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

“Do It London is playing a pivotal role in helping Londoners make safe choices and in preventing the transmission of HIV. The fall in new HIV cases in the capital points to the campaign’s significant success.

“It’s crucial that this awareness raising continues. HIV remains a serious public health challenge, which is why London’s boroughs are working together through this pan-London approach. By joining forces on this campaign, we’re ensuring that Do It London’s messages are shared consistently across the capital and have the greatest possible impact.”     

Paul Steinberg, lead commissioner of the London HIV Prevention Programme, said:

“When the fifth phase of the Do It London campaign launched in August, we set out to bring the latest science on effective methods of HIV prevention to the attention of the London public.  We’re very proud to have increased people’s awareness of PrEP and understanding of ‘undetectable’ status, especially amongst audiences who had never before heard of these biomedical interventions.

“The London HIV Prevention Programme has made a significant contribution towards empowering Londoners and promoting HIV prevention. Everyone involved in the initiative, in conjunction with our world-class clinical services and other activists, should feel very proud to see this significant downturn in HIV incidence. London is also now part of an ambitious global effort to end the HIV epidemic by 2030, and Do It London’s impact means we’re making strong progress towards achieving this goal.” 

ENDS

 

Notes to Editors:

1. Do It London advocates a combined prevention approach: condoms, testing, PrEP, and achieving ‘undetectable’ status – as having an undetectable viral load means HIV is untransmittable (U=U). Visit www.doitlondon.org to find out more.

2. The London HIV Prevention Programme (LHPP) is a collaboration led by Lambeth Council on behalf of 30 London boroughs and the City of London. Each partner contributes to the LHPP on a sliding scale relative to the HIV prevalence in its area. The programme delivers London-wide outreach, free testing and condom distribution to men who have sex with men, as well as the capital’s HIV prevention campaign Do It London.

3. The London HIV Prevention Programme was launched in 2014 for three years. Early in 2017 the LHPP was recommissioned for a further two years to 2019.

4. The Association of Directors of Public Health (ADPH) in London kick-started London’s joint HIV response five years ago by compiling a comprehensive Needs Assessment into HIV in London. For the first time this brought together the latest epidemiology, demographics, patient insight, service mapping and reviewed potential interventions for the capital. More on ADPH London here: http://adph.org.uk/networks/london.

5. The London HIV Needs Assessment recommended that a HIV prevention programme across the capital was required and that significant economies of scale could be achieved if all boroughs were to contribute and work together. 

6. London Councils represents London’s 32 borough councils and the City of London and facilitates the LHPP’s governance. It is a cross-party organisation that works on behalf of all of its member authorities regardless of political persuasion. More about London Councils here: http://www.londoncouncils.gov.uk