A few days before Christmas 2016, a phone call took place that no one could have predicted.
One of the world’s most esteemed HIV doctors, Professor Sheena McCormack – whose life’s work as an epidemiologist has been to track and fight the virus – picked up the phone to deliver a message that would make headline news: In the space of 12 months, the number of gay men in London being diagnosed with HIV had dropped by 40%. Across England it was down by a third.
No British doctor has been able to report a fall this steep in more than 35 years of the virus. It is the kind of figure that in medical circles is so large as to look jarring, even false; and yet it was true.
Behind this story lay a series of secret meetings and a network of people with one man at the centre who, unknown to the public, helped change medical history. His name is Greg Owen. He was the man McCormack phoned. Today his story is told in full for the first time.
In an exclusive interview with BuzzFeed News, Greg Owen reveals the story behind Britain’s largest ever drop in HIV transmissions.