Dr Emeka Okorocha is passionate about improving people’s health and wellbeing, using his platform to speak up about everything from coronavirus to bipolar disorder.
As a doctor, he knows how much medical progress has been made in HIV thanks to effective treatments. But, as a proud British Nigerian from East London, he also knows there’s a lot of work to do to get that message out – especially to the men in communities like his.
I remember hearing about HIV when I was very young, as some of my childhood idols such as NBA legend Magic Johnson and rapper Eazy-E had contracted the virus. Eazy-E sadly died despite all the treatments that were available at the time, but Magic is still going strong today.
When I first came across the Terrence Higgins Trust Instagram page, I was very surprised and impressed by the awareness they were creating for people regarding HIV and AIDS. I was so inspired by the work they do that I wanted to make sure I could be involved in the next campaign, even if that means just writing a blog for the website – so here we are!
From medical school I know regular testing for HIV is vital for Black African communities as it is one of the groups most impacted by the virus. According to the latest figures, there are almost 30,000 Black African people in the UK living with HIV and around 1,500 of those are unaware they are living with the virus.
Free HIV test kits to do at home are now available to mark National HIV Testing Week. The easy-to-use kits are available to order online and arrive in plain packaging directly to your door.
As a proud Nigerian man and healthcare professional with a large following, I have a responsibility to speak up and use my platform to educate others on the importance of testing and realities of living with HIV in today’s society.
Thanks to effective treatment, people who are diagnosed with HIV and accessing treatment can now live a long, healthy life. This treatment is free to anyone in the UK, regardless of immigration status or other factors.
Despite a slight increase in HIV testing among African communities over the last five years, half of Black African men and women who test positive in the UK are still diagnosed late. This is what we want to avoid, because this means that you've tested positive for HIV after the virus has already started to damage your immune system.
You can avoid being diagnosed late by getting tested regularly. If you have HIV, the sooner you find out you have it, the better it is for your health. You can start treatment, and it is much less likely to have a negative impact on your health.
AIDS had a massive effect on the African communities back home in the 1980s. I spent some of my childhood in Nigeria, and even now in an age and time where there is a lot more information and knowledge surrounding HIV and AIDS, many still believe outdated myths to be true.
HIV has changed a huge amount in recent years thanks to fast medical progress. Effective HIV medication stops the virus from being passed on to loved ones and the virus is no longer a death sentence.
Knowing your status is empowering, it allows you to keep your health in your hands. I feel extremely blessed to have the opportunity to use my platform to raise awareness about issues that affect my community. If I can encourage at least one person to order a home test kit, then I’ll be happy.