This week is National HIV Testing Week, leading up to World AIDS Day 2013 on 1st December. The question is, how many of you were aware of this - and what can we do to enhance that awareness? For too long, educational messages about HIV/AIDS, and about the way it is transmitted and prevented, have not been heard.
Walking into the room, I saw eight people - predominantly doctors - and I could tell that at least five had already made up their minds to reject the project. It started predictably: "Well, we have spent a lot of time discussing this very interesting project, but have some significant concerns." That was why I was there - to allay their fears and get on with this important project. That was not to be.
Many younger gay men these days have not seen their friends die of AIDS-related illnesses, and there certainly isn't the fear around HIV which their once was. There is a difficult balance to strike here: we don't want to stigmatise HIV further yet at the same time it is difficult to combat the damaging "I don't care" attitude without emphasising the serious nature of the HIV infection.
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.