The awareness-raising we and many others have been doing this week is truly crucial in the fight against HIV: because the stigma that surrounds the infection, and that at least one of our celebrity ambassadors has noticed on social media in this last week, drives a reluctance to test which actively promotes the continued spread of HIV.
I think we as gay men are uniquely vulnerable to this virus. If you accept that gay men aren't just going to stop having anal sex overnight, then you have to accept that we have the kind of sex that is 18 times better at transmitting HIV than the sex heterosexuals have, and that means we are 50-100x more likely, in most places in the world other than parts of Africa, to meet a positive partner.
I will keep saying it until I'm blue in the face: new HIV Infections have almost doubled amongst 15-24 year olds. I read my briefing over breakfast this morning and I cannot quite describe the feeling in my stomach. How can we, how can I allow this to happen, and how did these data slip out and go largely unreported this week?
I'm 42 now and my attitude towards sex has changed and I'm confident in my sexuality. I'm also fully aware of the 'risks', and they are risks. I don't take my being HIV-negative for granted but I also don't allow a fear of HIV to stop me doing what I want to do. After twenty years I've finally realised that a penis isn't a murder weapon.
Desperate to save their loved ones, families turned to traditional faith healers, running up huge debts paying for treatment that not only didn't work but was often painful and dangerous. HIV testing wasn't available, and for the few who did know they were infected, there was no support or treatment. People were dying and things seemed beyond hope. And so to people who say that that we shouldn't give aid to Africa because it's not helping, I'd say you're chatting rubbish. I've seen with my own eyes that you're wrong, aid does work. It's real and it's making a massive difference.
It is a very scary statistic that in the UK there are over 25,000 people infected with HIV unaware they are infected. We must prioritise diagnosing them, especially as HIV can be symptomless for many years. So regular blood testing is often not just our best, but our only tool in controlling the spread of HIV.
We've come a long way in the fight to tackle HIV in developing countries - UK aid is helping to prevent 500,000 new HIV infections by 2015 in women through a range of prevention programmes. But there's still the hurdle of reaching people who are marginalised from the services they need and most at risk of infection.
The latest Health Protection Agency (HPA) figures show there were an estimated 3,010 new diagnoses among gay men in 2011 - the highest annual figure since records began. Nearly a quarter of people with HIV (24%) remain unaware of their infection and the proportion of late diagnoses (indicating people have been infected for over five years) remains worryingly high at 47%.
If the bill is passed it's likely to lead to even more HIV infections in politically isolated populations, especially among men who have sex with men. They will be prevented from having access to essential public health information, such as how to protect themselves from HIV and how to access life saving treatment and support services that are stigma-free.