Leicester gay Asian men urged to take HIV test

Budding HIV particles
Image caption Scientists still have no vaccine but combination drug treatment makes people with HIV less infectious

Doctors in Leicester are urging gay Asian men to get themselves screened for HIV every six months.

In 2010, Leicester Royal Infirmary tested about 2,500 men, but only 164 admitted having male partners.

Hospital clinical manager Craig Everitt said some gay Asian men were worried they could be "outed".

New research from the Gay Men's Sex Survey claimed that many gay Asian men are still not getting tested, despite having a higher number of partners.

Mr Everitt said many of the gay Asian men he has treated have been leading two different lives.

"The majority of Asian men we see are married, have children and have been sexually active with other men for a number of years," he said.

However, he said only a very small percentage of Asian were open about their homosexuality - 6.5% out of 2,500 gay Asian men, survey found.

'Shatter their dreams'

"It's telling us that either we're not seeing the men that we need to, or that actually men are reluctant to tell us about their behaviour."

Sal Khalifa, from the group Trade Sexual Health in Leicester, said many Asian men found it hard to admit their homosexuality because they felt it was not accepted in their culture and religion.

He said many believed they would change once they were married to women.

"They're still attracted to blokes, but it becomes harder for them to manage, so some men keep their sexuality a secret and are intimate with other men," Mr Khalifa said.

He said some gay Asian men do not reveal their homosexuality to their families because they felt "guilty" about how it would affect them.

"They feel they're going to shatter their dreams and affect their brothers or sisters' future marriages, if they come out," he said.

'HIV myths'

"Some men think they can just get a fix and sexual health doesn't come in to it."

Chaz, 41, from Leicester, is a gay man in the Sikh community.

"Gay men have a fear of what the HIV test result could be.

"There's still a lot of myths on the street and in the community around HIV. People still think if you have HIV you're going to die."

Chaz, who has been in an open gay relationship for 15 years and regularly gets himself tested for HIV, was married at 19 and is now a single parent.

"I was attracted to men when I was about five or six-years-old, but I didn't act on my feelings," he said.

"I went with girls to confuse people, so nobody would think I was gay. If I came out I would have been bullied, people in our community would have rejected our family."

Chaz said it was difficult growing up as a gay Asian man: "I felt I was the only one, I had nobody to identify to, no role model.

"I felt I couldn't tell my family because of the stigmas and discrimination against gay men. Being gay and Asian was taboo and unheard of in our community."

'Feel complete'

Chaz said he got married for "all the wrong reasons, to please my family and conform to society".

"All five of my brothers got married, I did what they did and went along with what was expected of me."

He said that three years after his marriage ended he had his first male relationship.

"It was the missing piece to the jigsaw for years, it made me feel complete," Chaz said.

"It gave me the confidence, the self-esteem and courage to tell my family."

Chaz was 23 when he told his family he was homosexual. He said the older generation, who grew up in India, had difficulty accepting it.

"My brothers didn't talk to me for about two to three years, one of them wouldn't even let me in his car," he said.

"But my mum shocked me after I asked her 'do you wish I was dead?', she said 'you'll always be my boy, you came out of me and I will always love you'.

"That gave me the confidence to come out and tell everyone."

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