The Undetectables: U=U, PrEP and a decade with HIV

On 2 January 2020, I celebrated my 13th annHIVersary — the day I received my HIV-positive diagnosis 13 years ago. For World AIDS Day 2019, I gave the following interview to GMFA to accompany my photos in The Undetectables issue of FS magazine. I reflect on how living with the virus has changed and how everyone can be an HIV activist.

How long have you been living with HIV?

More than 12 years — I was diagnosed at the beginning of 2007.

How long have you been undetectable?

Nearly a decade — I started medication in April 2010 and became undetectable soon after. I keep taking my medication every day and so I have been undetectable ever since.

Why did you decide to take part in the photo shoot?

I have proudly participated in quite a few photo shoots and videos for GMFA over the years, including The Undetectables campaign two years ago. I am passionate about changing perceptions of people living with HIV.

I took part in The Undetectables video in 2017
Photos © Chris Jepson

As a longtime activist, what changes have you seen (good or bad) in people’s attitudes towards HIV over the years?

It feels odd to be described as a longtime activist — I feel like I have been only been talking openly about living with HIV for just a few years. Assuming I am indeed a grande dame of HIV, personally I think attitudes and knowledge have got significantly better over the past decade.

Brighton Pride 2016: I have been known to pick up a placard or two about PrEP
This amazing man is educated about HIV — are you? Photo © Abstract Purity

Do you find people are generally educated about HIV and being undetectable?

In a word: no. But sometimes I am really pleasantly surprised: like when I first met my boyfriend (who is HIV negative) in 2018. I am never going to give up hope about changing hearts and minds.

Photos © Chris Jepson
In 2017 I was one of the HIV-positive guys who was featured in The Undetectables video

How do you deal with people who may be misinformed or ill-informed about HIV?

I’m someone who likes to see the best in people, and so I think often people only say the wrong thing unintentionally. So, when I’m faced with stigma I try to calmly explain to the other person why they’re wrong. I only get frustrated when the person I’m talking to doesn’t want to listen or refuses to accept scientific evidence.

How has being an activist impacted your life (for better or worse)?

I don’t think of myself as brave for coming out as HIV positive. I see myself as fortunate to have got to a place where I feel safe and supported enough by my friends, my family and my colleagues to give interviews like this one. Sadly, for many people they just do not have that support network, or they aren’t given the platform to tell their story in their own way.

A scary but hugely empowering moment back in 2012

What frustrates you most about perceptions of living with HIV?

I find it really interesting we use the words ‘disclosure’ and ‘reveal their status’ when we are talking about HIV-positive people just talking about their health. Doesn’t that say a lot about HIV stigma, and the shame that it is often associated with an HIV diagnosis? Do we talk about other preventable and treatable long-term conditions in the same way? Our language around HIV definitely needs to change.

Photos © Chris Jepson

What else do you think needs to be done to get the message of U=U out there?

We need to reach everyone in our community with the U=U message. The end of new HIV cases is within sight here in the UK. But we need political will — not just warm words but decisive action — as well as social change to make it happen.

What advice would you give to new activists or those looking to make a difference by openly talking about U=U or their status?

Go at your own pace and don’t ever feel guilty that you are not doing enough. Remind yourself that you are doing your best and that is good enough. I sometimes kick myself I didn’t come out as living with HIV sooner. But I know that’s the beauty of hindsight. I have to remind myself that I had to feel comfortable with myself before I could take that step.

HIV facts:

  • HIV [Human Immunodeficiency Virus] attacks the immune system and weakens the body’s ability to fight diseases.
  • Antiretroviral medication — also called ARVs, combination therapy, or HIV treatment — lowers the amount of the virus in the blood to undetectable levels, which stops it from damaging the immune system, and means it cannot be passed on to other people.
  • HIV treatment is now extremely effective and easier to take than ever before. Many people take just one or a few pills once a day.
  • A person with HIV should live just as long as an HIV-negative person — especially if they are diagnosed early and begin treatment.
  • There is still a great deal of stigma about HIV. Stigma is damaging as it prevents people from getting tested, from accessing treatment and from living a happy and healthy life.
  • Aids [Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome] can develop when HIV damages the immune system to such an extent that it can no longer fight off a range of often rare infections it would normally be able to cope with. In the UK, the term ‘late-stage HIV’ is now generally used as it is much less stigmatising. HIV treatment stops the virus from damaging a person’s immune system.
  • HIV cannot be passed on through casual or day-to-day contact. It cannot be transmitted through kissing, spitting, or sharing a cup, plate or toilet seat.



We proudly support Middlesex University staff and students in their journey towards being their true selves. The views expressed on this blog are not necessarily those of Middlesex University, even though all our authors do work for or with us in some capacity.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Ant Babajee | he/him

Unashamedly undetectable: ex-BBC journo, uni marketer by day, HIV campaigner and public health graduate by night