Gay South Asian men launch HIV campaign to help diversify LGBTQ spaces – Metro.co.uk

HIV Testing poster
‘The clash of trying to observe cultural norms while navigating an emerging queer identity was a deeply isolating experience’ (Picture: GMFA)

Brilliant new images for an HIV testing campaign aim to encourage gay and bisexual South Asian men to test for the virus, and amplify diverse voices in queer spaces.

Me. Him. Us. is the groundbreaking HIV campaign from GMFA – the gay men’s health project – and it is returning to London and across the country this month.

The campaign’s predecessor was targeted for black gay and bisexual men, but this time the aim is to increase representation of South Asian men specifically.

The campaign was created by and stars a team of passionate South Asian gay and bisexual men who are looking to make positive and effective change in their communities.

They say there is a chronic lack of representation of South Asian gay and bisexual men in health campaigns.

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Being South Asian and same-sex attracted can be a delicate balancing act,’ says Alexander Leon, one of the campaign’s project leads.

HIV Testing poster
‘We educate our community while showcasing some of its less celebrated members’ (Picture: GMFA)

‘For me, the clash of trying to observe cultural norms while navigating an emerging queer identity was a deeply isolating experience.

‘It seemed impossible to stay true to my authentic self while maintaining a meaningful relationship with my loved ones whose culture or religion sometimes dictated intolerance.

‘What’s more, as I began to come into my own as a gay man, it became achingly evident that there was meagre representation of South Asian gay and bisexual men in LGBTQ+ social spaces and media.’

Alex says that the new campaign highlights an important inequality faced by gay and bisexual South Asian men, but that’s not all.

‘It’s an ingenious double whammy,’ he adds. ‘We educate our community while showcasing some of its less celebrated members.

‘Me. Him. Us. is important because it delivers a crucial message on HIV prevention to a demographic who sorely need to hear it.’

He says that the choice to place campaign ads in LGBTQ+ social spaces around the country sends a clear message to any South Asian men feeling isolated by the combination of homophobia and racism: ‘You, your identity, your life and your choices are valid.’

Ian Howley, Chief Executive of LGBT HERO, the parent organisation of GMFA said: ‘It’s important that South Asian men have a platform to create personal and social change in our community.

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‘For far too long, these men have been an afterthought, or used in a tokenistic way. This version of Me. Him. Us. puts South Asian gay and bisexual men front and centre of a national campaign. That’s really important.

HIV Testing poster
‘For far too long, these men have been an afterthought, or used in a tokenistic way’ (Picture: GMFA)

‘Me. Him. Us. will continue to work with black, South Asian, and other minority groups within our community to create effective campaigns that highlight the inequalities these men face while increasing representation within our community and in the wider population.’

This campaign is so important because South Asian gay and bisexual men are more likely to be diagnosed with HIV, and at a later stage too.

It’s important that we increase the need for frequent testing for HIV and STIs for South Asian gay and bisexual men,’ adds Ian. ‘At LGBT HERO we recommend that all sexually active men, no matter their background, are tested for HIV at least every six months.’

Since the campaign was launched this week, Alexander has been blown away by the overwhelmingly positive reaction:

‘It’s been so heartening to see the reaction online to the campaign,’ Alexander tells Metro.co.uk.

‘Gay and bisexual South Asian men are so rarely represented in the media, whether LGBT-specific or mainstream, and I’m so honoured to be a part of a campaign which is pushing the envelope on diversifying representations of same sex love.

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‘The message of the campaign is landing.

‘HIV testing and awareness is profoundly important to our community, and with campaigns like Me. Him. Us catering to specific sub-sections who are particularly at risk, the message is going to those who need to hear it the most.’

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