Kantar Public has published a report evaluating the ‘It Starts With Me’ campaign, which raises awareness of HIV testing and condom use, on behalf of Public Health England. The research investigates attitudes and behaviours amongst men who have sex with men (MSM) and Black Africans (BA) towards HIV and HIV prevention.

HIV remains a high priority infectious disease with no cure or vaccine. Achieving the best possible health outcomes depends on early diagnosis, leading to early treatment. There are two groups that are persistently over represented in terms of HIV infections: Men who have sex with men (MSM), and Black Africans (BA). These two groups, who are most at-risk of HIV in the UK, still have low rates of regular HIV testing.

On behalf of Public Health England, Kantar Public carried out an evaluation of ‘It Starts With Me’ a campaign led by HIV Prevention England and the Terrence Higgins Trust, which aimed to raise awareness of HIV testing and condom use, specifically targeting the key MSM and BA groups.

Two surveys were carried out (one aimed at each of MSM and BA), conducted online with a total of 1,379 interviews with MSM respondents and 362 interviews with BA respondents in December 2015. Given the difficulty of reaching these minority populations, a variety of recruitment methods were used, such as recruiting via targeted online advertising on social media and, and contacting existing networks of partner organisations.

The report, which can be downloaded in full here, showed that both MSM and BA groups have strong knowledge surrounding HIV and are confident in knowing how to get a test. However, there are areas of concern in terms of behaviours: 14% of MSM and 23% of BA had never had an HIV test, and 6% of MSM and 12% of BA did not know where to get tested.

The research also showed the impact of the campaign in addressing these behaviours: 35% of MSM and 23% of BA who had seen the campaign advertising reported taking active steps to getting tested as a result. Given the high proportions of both groups reporting having seen the campaign (84% of MSM and 75% of BA), this is promising news that such campaigns are playing a crucial role in raising awareness of the importance of HIV testing.