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December 2018

Memorial gathering for our dear friend Nicola

On 12 December Tagadere held an intimate luncheon in memory of our friend Nicola Perkins who tragically died of a stroke on 31 July aged 52.

This was an opportunity for some of Nicola’s numerous friends to gather within the community centre which was home to our Tagadere drop-in for many years and to allow an attempt to heal the emotional wounds which were caused by her unexpected death.

The full article can be viewed by clicking here

Sylvester: forever Mighty Real

Sylvester was much more than just ‘The Queen of Disco’.  In the early days of the AIDS before it became a pandemic, Sylvester used his celebrity status and high profile to raise awareness of what was happening, even though at the time nobody really knew what actually was happening. He provided safe sex literature at his public appearances and attached safe sex booklets to the photographs which were proffered for signing by his adoring fans.  Sylvester saw his chance and utilised his visibility to get the AIDS message out.


He organised the first AIDS fundraising benefit at Studio One in New York along with Joan Rivers and comedian Charles Nelson Reilly in March 1984 in a time when the Reagan administration shied away from any commitment or involvement with AIDS research.  There is a clip of this 1987 appearance on The Tonight Show which Joan Rivers hosted and featured Sylvester and Charles as guests.

It has been remarked about Freddie Mercury’s courage in announcing he had AIDS, but it must be remembered that he only confirmed media rumour and supposition about his health just a few hours before his death.  It has often been mentioned that as his group Queen had a primarily white, heterosexual male rock music fan base then, had Freddie Mercury announced his HIV status earlier, it probably would have achieved a lot in smashing stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS.  However, bearing that in mind, we enter the fuzzy world of rights to privacy and of people who are prominent in the public arena requiring a level of responsibility and influence.

On the other hand and the other side of the Atlantic, three years after the death of Rock Hudson to AIDS and three years before Freddie Mercury’s demise, Sylvester was open about his condition and deteriorating health.

He attended the 1988 San Francisco Gay Freedom Parade where he appeared frail and emaciated in a wheelchair in front of a huge People With AIDS banner, pushed along Market Street by his business manager Tim McKenna.  Sylvester was always visible in the Castro neighbourhood anyway and never doubted that he needed to show the public that he too was suffering greatly as had thousands before him.

Although his health was rapidly deteriorating, he continued to give interviews and was completely open about the fact that he had AIDS, seeking to highlight the impact of the disease on the African-American populace.  The New Musical Express interviewed Sylvester in which he stated ‘I don’t believe that AIDS is the wrath of God.  People have a tendency to blame everything on God.’

In an interview with the Los Angeles Times he stated ‘It bothers me that AIDS is still thought of a gay, white male disease’ and used statistics to bolster his opinion.  He spoke candidly about his own sex life, AIDS symptoms and attitude towards death. Fatigued, he simply told one interviewer ‘I’m dying…and it’s not pretty.’

Sylvester was a trailblazer. who didn’t have to fight for acceptance because when you are as far out as he was, as flamboyant, ostentatious, extravagant and outrageous, plus having the bonus of a gifted vocal talent to accompany it, he gave people a simple  choice: ‘This is me.  Take it or leave it’.

Sylvester’s actions and behaviour gave encouragement and empowerment to thousands of people worldwide; not only to gay men, but to people living with HIV at a time when it seemed that only a small handful of celebrities were prepared to risk rejection and proclaim support for people living with AIDS.  Sylvester was there, pushing the issue of AIDS further into the public consciousness in the most glamorous fashion possible.

Labour MP announces his HIV positive status

‘I wanted to be able to stand here in this place and say to those who are living with HIV that their status does not define them.’

In a personal speech, Lloyd Russell-Moyle announced his HIV positive status in a bid to dispel the stigma which still surrounds HIV.  Diagnosed ten years ago when he was aged 22, the Labour MP for Brighton Kemptown stated that medical advances meant that he is able to live an entirely unaffected life.

‘We can be whoever we want to be and to those who have not been tested, maybe because of fear, I say to you: It is better to live in knowledge than to die in fear.’

Following his speech in the House of Commons, MPs rose and clapped despite applause not being officially permitted in the chamber.

However, Mr. Russell-Moyle is not the first MP to announce his HIV positive status. Former Labour minister Chris Smith revealed his HIV status some months before leaving Parliament in 2005. He was also the UK’s first openly gay MP when he entered the Commons in 1983.

Mr. Russell-Moyle stated that the upcoming thirtieth anniversary of World AIDS Day on 1 December ‘gives us pause to reflect how far we have come and to remember those we have lost.’

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said: ‘We need to send a message out from this House of Commons: this country has changed its attitudes, we have done a great deal medically to help people, we need to ensure that the rest of the world understands that we can do the same for every other country in the world….we have to close our minds to prejudice and open our minds up to human rights and justice for people all across the globe….Lloyd has shown enormous courage today. I know the whole Labour party is proud of him.’

World AIDS Day 2018 service in Nottingham

There is to be a service at St. Peter’s Church, Nottingham at 11:00 on Saturday 1 December.

St. Peter’s Church (near Marks & Spencer) will be holding their annual commemoration of World AIDS Day to remember those who have died from AIDS and to support those living with HIV. Guest preacher will be F. Stuart Soley.

Mass will be followed by refreshments in the parish hall.

Stigma causes Russia to face HIV epidemic: Heterosexual sex HIV responsible for majority of the new cases.

Attributing stigma surrounding homosexuality and drug use, experts have stated that some former Soviet Union countries are at risk of developing HIV epidemics of uncontrolled proportions following data showing a record number of new diagnoses in 2017.

Heterosexual sex HIV transmission produced the majority of the new cases. To the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, HIV is spreading beyond the perceived ‘high risk groups’.

Since 2012, an increase in new HIV diagnoses in the region is opposite to a global decline.  WHO HIV specialist Masoud Dara is of the opinion that it could possibly be ‘an early indication of overspill in the general population’.  He stated ‘HIV starts off [in] key populations – meaning drug users, commercial sex workers and men having sex with men – but after that it [increases] exponentially ... if there is no more intervention.’

Over 104, 000 new HIV diagnoses in Russia were recorded in 2017 which increases the total of cases in excess of 1.2 million, although HIV experts state that this is probably an understatement.

Despite research showing that it helps to prevent injecting drug users from passing on HIV, Methadone is banned in Russia.

An openly gay man, Moscow regional AIDS centre doctor Nikolay Lunchenkov said ‘We don’t have enough medication, we don’t treat every patient…we are increasing the number of people who are receiving antiretroviral therapy, but it’s still not enough. We also don’t have enough data about men who have sex with other men because of high levels of stigma.’

Prince Harry advocates HIV testing

In a video campaign to promote HIV testing, Prince Harry has released a video on YouTube appealing that getting tested regularly for HIV is ‘something to be proud of’. He believes that HIV testing should be seen as normal and as sensible a precaution as getting a flu jab to protect yourself over winter.

In the video the prince stated: ‘There is still too much stigma, which is stopping so many of us from getting a simple, quick and easy test. We won’t bring an end to the Human Immunodeficiency Virus until testing is seen as completely normal and accessible for everyone.’

November 2018

Man refused PrEP by NHS becomes HIV positive

A man who had requested PrEP from his local sexual health clinic in autumn 2017 was refused it due to the supplies being capped by the NHS later tested HIV positive in February 2018.  He stated that the decision by NHS England to restrict the provision of PrEP meant that other people are now left with a life-long condition which will ‘cost the NHS much more in the end’.

An online HIV support organisation reported that it had been contacted by people who had been tested HIV positive after being refused PrEP because their clinic had no capacity left.  NAT (National AIDS Trust) stated that the situation was a ‘huge injustice’.

Despite experiencing anxiety and depression, the man has been able to come to terms with his HIV diagnosis with help, although he said that it was the thought of other people less fortunate than him which angered him the most.  ‘There are people out there who have no support circle who were told no and now they’re left to handle this on their own.’

NHS England launched the Impact trial in October 2017.  This intended to provide 10,000 people with PrEP in the form of Truvada, a drug normally taken daily.  The aim was to provide those who were considered at most risk of HIV infection.  The number was later augmented by 3,000.

The Impact trial itself was controversial as previously NHS England had refused to provide the drug to anyone at all, claiming that it was not NHS England’s responsibility.  NAT (National AIDS Trust) brought legal action against NHS England to enable PrEP to be made available for everyone.

The man was mostly unaware of the Impact trial when he attended clinic in Autumn 2017 although he had learned that only people who were most at risk for contracting HIV were eligible for PrEP.  He requested PrEP as he was concerned about the amount of unprotected sex he was engaging in which would put him at risk of contracting HIV.

He claims that he was told to look online for PrEP although he felt that he was not being advised that he should be taking the drug.  His HIV test result was negative and instead of paying for PrEP privately, he decided to ‘cut back’ on the number of his female and male sexual partners.

Of course, there have been many debates and criticisms on Internet forums regarding the man’s attitude to unprotected sex, suggesting that he should have been more responsible by wearing a condom to not only reduce the risk of HIV transmission but of contracting and spreading other Sexually Transmitted Infections.

In February 2018 he visited a different clinic for a routine check-up and after tests, he was confirmed as HIV positive.

NHS England commented: ‘While it would be wrong to prejudge the PrEP Impact trial, it is already expanding with the number of places available increasing this year by 3,000 to 13,000. The NHS will look at evidence from the trial to expand prevention services in the most effective way.’

October 2018

UK HIV diagnoses drop for third year; report highlights reductions in gay men as being drive behind the size of the decreases.

Ahead of publication of the full report in December, preliminary data from Public Health England shows a 17% decrease in HIV dignoses in 2017 compared to 2016.

The PHE press release points out that this is the second year that overall diagnoses have reduced so significantly, although in principle this is the third year of such reductions

Importantly, this latest data shows a consistent trend for reduced numbers of HIV diagnoses over all demographic which for many groups, this trend has continued for two or three years.  Generally, diagnoses of HIV fell by 17% last year and by 13% the previous year, with 4363 people diagnosed during 2017 as opposed to 6043 diagnoses recorded in 2015.

HIV diagnosis figures have dropped so significantly within the context of modern ART (antiretroviral therapy) and within the context of the lack of impact of HIV prevention campaigns for the previous 15 years since the year 2000.

Reductions of diagnoses in gay men were noted in the summary report as being a drive behind the size of reductions.  From 2008 to 2014, HIV diagnoses in gay and bisexual men had increased each year.  However, since 2015, London clinic diagnoses dropped by 44% and by 28% outside London.

Figures show that across the UK diagnoses dropped by 24% in London, 14% in the Midlands and the East of England, 12% in the North of England, 21% in the South of England, 20% in both Scotland and Wales, although there was a 9% increase in Northern Ireland where, although numbers are relatively low, this was an increase from 76 to 83.

HIV support programmes in jeopardy and thousands of Tanzanians in fear following order to public to report gay people and issue of amazingly ignorant statement that ‘even cows disapprove of homosexuality’.

Paul Makonda (pictured left), the regional commissioner for Dar es Salaam requested that the public reported gay people or those suspected of being gay and pledged that a ‘special team’ would ‘get their hands on them.’

He stated that within 24 hours he had already received 5,763 messages from members of the public providing over 100 names of people suspected of being gay. A special 17-member committee will be established to identify gay people visible on social media and then arrest them.

This follows the astonishingly ignorant statement made by Tanzanian President John Magufuli who said that ‘even cows’ disapprove of homosexuality.

Recent crackdowns on LGBT communities has led to the closure of gay support organisations and HIV support programmes.

The NHS ‘must urgently offer’ PrEP nationwide as HIV infections cut by 25% in one year.

An Australian trial has shown that in a twelve month period, PrEP cut new HIV transmissions by 25%.  In New South Wales the new diagnoses of HIV fell to their lowest levels since recording began.

NAT (National AIDS Trust) chief executive Deborah Gold stated that it is ‘completely unacceptable for people in need of PrEP to be denied it’ and added ‘This news highlights the incredible potential of PrEP to (help) finally reverse the HIV epidemic in any country.’

The study reported in The Lancet reported that 221 men in NSW were diagnosed with HIV during the twelve months after the trial which was a decrease of 25% from the 295 HIV diagnoses in the preceding twelve months.

‘This news highlights the incredible potential of PrEP to (help) finally reverse the HIV epidemic in any country.’

There were only two HIV diagnoses from the 3,069 participants who received the drug for the trial and who returned for testing one year later, although both men reported that they had not adhered to the daily dose of Truvada.  This undermines the effectiveness; nevertheless, the diagnosis rate was still 200 times lower than the infection rate in the general population of gay men.

A spokesperson for NHS England stated ‘While it would be wrong to prejudge the PrEP Impact trial, it is already expanding with the number of places available increasing this year by 3,000 to 13,000. 

“The NHS will look at evidence from the trial to expand prevention services in the most effective way.’

‘Danger to women’ HIV-positive man must inform police 24 hours before he has sex.

An HIV-positive man branded ‘a danger to women’ by a judge at Southampton Magistrates’ Court for having unprotected sex with women and not telling them of his HIV status has been given a four-year Sexual Risk Order and must notify the Police 24 hours before he intends to have sex.

If he breaks the court order, he could face up to five years in prison. The man was served with the order after a civil case brought by Hampshire Constabulary.

The 44 year old must contact officers to provide details of each woman he plans to have sex with; this is to enable Police to warn the women about the man’s HIV status.  He has also been banned from inviting women into his home unless he has notified the Police in advance.

The Southampton man has not been convicted of any offence but it has been alleged that he has put ‘vulnerable’ women at risk by not informing them he is HIV positive before having unprotected sex with them.

Hampshire Constabulary Detective Sergeant Craig Fielding informed the court that the man enticed women back to his home promising them alcohol and drugs.  On one occasion, a woman had awoken to find the lower half of her clothing had been removed.  Although the woman made a formal complaint, the man denied raping her and there was insufficient evidence to show that sexual intercourse had actually taken place.

On a separate occasion, it was alleged that a woman awoke to find blood on her legs and her clothes were torn.  The court was told that the man had locked her in the flat for several days.  He was arrested and denied committing any offences; the woman was unprepared to support prosecution of the man.

'He approached these women late at night, made offers of drink and cannabis, and induced them to go with him to his flat. One of them was held for three days.  He has not told any of the women he has HIV. He does present a danger to females in this city - in my view it is necessary to make the order.'

                 District Judge Peter Greenfield

The order means that not only must the man inform women that he is HIV positive before engaging in any sexual activity, but also a curfew was imposed preventing him from leaving his home between the hours of 10pm–7am.

Under the civil order, the man is not allowed to invite any woman into his home unless he first informs the police of her name and her contact details; this will allow officers to contact the woman in advance in order to issue an appropriate warning.

If the man fails to comply, he could face prosecution and receive a jail sentence of up to five years.  The man was deemed to be unfit to take part in the hearing due to his mental health issues.

Near-normal life span for people living with HIV

The National AIDS Manual reports that the prospects for a near-normal life span for HIV positive people in the United Kingdom have ‘never been better’ with the correct HIV treatment and care.

A recent UK study highlighted that people living with HIV who showed a favourable initial response to their HIV treatment regime could have a similar life expectancy to the general population.  For example, a 50 year old male whose had an undetectable viral load and a CD4 count was over 350 one year after starting HIV treatment could expect to live until the age of 83, whereas a female of the same age and in the same circumstances could expect to live until 85.

When response to HIV treatment was not as initially as effective (with, for example, a CD4 count of 200–350 or a still-detectable viral load after one year) people living with HIV were forecast to live into their seventies.

To attain a long life as a person living with HIV, good access to an effective HIV treatment regime which reduces a person’s viral load to an undetectable level is crucial.

Beginning and adhering to HIV treatment as soon as possible along with regular attendance to NHS HIV services shows that people living with HIV are likely to have a similar life expectancy to people who do not have HIV.

Naturally, a person may be affected by other health conditions and ailments but it is unlikely to become ill or die as a direct result of HIV.  Amongst common health conditions affecting people living with HIV as they grow older are high blood pressure, raised lipids (blood fats) and also depression.  Although a percentage of people living with HIV have diabetes, bone problems, cancers and other condition these are similar to the general population of people who do not have HIV.

Adopting a healthier personal lifestyle will be beneficial although of course you cannot change certain health conditions such as family history of various diseases and you cannot change your HIV positive status.  You can expect to live a longer, healthier life if you are a non-smoker, avoid excess alcohol and recreational drug use and try to maintain a healthy weight.

August 2018

The under £40 HIV self-test kit

For the first time it will be possible to buy HIV self-testing kits in high street shops.  Superdrug is to be the first retailer to offer the £39.99 self-testing kit in its 200 stores. Previously the kit had only been available to purchase online.

With a 99.7% accuracy rate, the BioSURE HIV Self Test became the first legally approved self-testing kit in 2015.

The test involves using a small amount of blood sampled from a finger prick which will detect the presence of HIV antibodies.  A result will be available in a mere 15 minutes.

Study results declare that zero transmissions means zero risk

It was announced at the press conference in Amsterdam on the opening day of at the 22nd International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2018) that the results from the PARTNER study state that the chance of any HIV-positive person with an undetectable viral load transmitting the virus to a sexual partner is scientifically equivalent to zero.

In 2014 it was announced that from the first phase (PARTNER 1) that indications were that ‘Undetectable=Untransmittable’ or U=U, although the statistical certainty of the result was not as convincing in gay men.

Gay couples had been recruited for the second phase (PARTNER 2) with the results indicating, in the words of the researchers:  ‘A precise rate of within-couple transmission of zero’ for gay men as well as for heterosexuals.

At 75 clinical sites in 14 European countries, serodiscordant couples (one partner is HIV positive, one partner is HIV negative) were recruited for the study.  The HIV negative partners were tested for HIV every 6 to 12 months and also the viral load of the HIV positive partners was tested.  Each partner completed behavioural surveys and in the case of HIV infection in the negative partners, their HIV was analysed genetically to discover if it originated from their regular partner.

The study revealed there were no transmissions between gay male couples where the HIV positive partner had a viral load of under 200 copies/ml despite almost 77,000 acts of condomless sex between them.


The examination of surveillance data collected between 2008 and 2014 by Public Health England (PHE) produced results showing that MSM (men who have sex with men) comprise the majority of people with the chronic Hepatitis C virus (HCV). These men also have co-infection with HIV, with approximately two thirds of prevalent HIV infections among people with chronic HCV involving MSM.  The majority of those diagnosed with HCV infection had been diagnosed with HIV at least six months before the HCV infection was detected.

Estimates show that approximately 214,000 people in the UK are living with chronic HCV whilst 101,000 people are living with HIV.  The highest prevalence of HCV appears in people injecting drugs (IDU) and the highest prevalence of HIV is among MSM.

Epidemics of HCV have been recently detected among MSM with most infections involving men already diagnosed as HIV positive. The highest prevalence of co-infection was among men aged 30 to 54 years.

The authors commented:

‘Tackling the risk of HCV and other sexually transmitted infections remains a challenge for HIV and sexual health services. Our findings support the British HIV Association guidelines, which indicate that persons with HIV infection should be tested regularly for HCV, with the majority of persons in our study diagnosed with HCV a number of months after their HIV diagnosis.

More needs to be done to increase awareness of HCV infection risk and the need for regular testing and to encourage safer sex, as well as to understand the contribution of ‘chemsex’ to HCV and HIV infection risk.’

May 2018

Chemsex activity & HIV dignosis linked

Data reports published in HIV Medicine reveal that gay and bisexual men who reported engaging in Chemsex (the use of specific recreational drugs during sexual activity) were five times more likely to be newly-diagnosed as HIV positive; nine times more likely to be diagnosed with Hepatitis C and four times more likely to be diagnosed with an STI (sexually transmitted infection).

High prevalence of menopausal symptoms in HIV positive women

Nine in ten women living with HIV aged from 45 to 60 experience bodily symptoms of the menopause including hot flushes and frequently experience difficulties in receiving advice and care on managing the symptoms.

Because of the advancements in effective HIV treatment there are increasing numbers of HIV positive women who are now surviving to reach the period when women normally experience going through the menopause; a natural process which usually occurs between the ages of 45 – 55.

Difficulties with PrEP and positive HIV test diagnosis

It may be very difficult to tell if someone who has just started HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) has actually caught HIV just before or just after they started PrEP.

It could be very difficult to know if someone who has just begun PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) actually became infected with HIV prior to starting PrEP or afterwards.

A 31 year old New York male who had just begun PrEP showed multiple inconsistent HIV test results shortly after beginning PrEP.

Although being prescribed a precautionary third drug following a very weak HIV positive test result 28 days after he began PrEP, his test results remained inconsistent for a following period.

This led to eventual conclusions that the man had probably become infected with HIV shortly before beginning PrEP, but was undiagnosed due to the two PrEP drugs which although did not stop the HIV infection, suppressed HIV making it problematic to detect.

Therefore, in theory, if someone is on PrEP for a considerable period before a positive HIV test result it could provide implications of resistance.

Emphasis is that before beginning PrEP, it is imperative to take an HIV test to negate the possibility that they are already HIV positive.  This is crucial as the two drugs which currently comprise PrEP are not sufficiently strong to treat established HIV infection, although they are effective at preventing new HIV infection.

March 2018

Have you been recently diagnosed with HIV and identify as a man who has sex with men?

James Meek is a PhD student from Manchester Metropolitan University.  For a research study he would like to hear from gay or bisexual men who identify as MSM (a man who has sex with men) and who have been diagnosed as HIV positive in the past 12 months.

The study involves an initial interview, which may take up to 1.5 hours during which you will be asked to tell your story of your HIV diagnosis.  There is the possibility of follow-up interviews over 18 months.

Your involvement is voluntary and you can leave the study at any time.

Participants can choose to be interviewed face-to-face, via Skype or the telephone, whichever form is preferred and which is the most practical as James is based in Manchester.

If you feel that you are able to help with this important new research, please e-mail James your telephone number and he will contact you in order to explain more about the study.

HIV/AIDS education via clockwork radio

Trevor Baylis, regarded as one of Britain’s greatest living inventors and the creator of the wind-up radio that helped millions in the developing world to access life-saving information, has died at the age of 80.

After watching a 1991 television documentary about AIDS in Africa he was energised into inventing his unique ‘BayGen’ clockwork radio which would enable those living with HIV/AIDS in Africa to gain access to educational information about tackling the spread of HIV.

February 2018

New HIV research needs volunteer contributors

James Collins is a third-year student studying at Nottingham Trent University.  He is undertaking a research project which focuses on stigma, discrimination and how people living with HIV deal with the related stress.  James is seeking participants who would be willing to take part in a telephone interview; the subjects covered will include issues surrounding stigma, discrimination and personal experiences.

Anonymity is guaranteed and covered by the strictest confidentiality guidelines following University policy. The hope is that the research will be beneficial for the future and will one day contribute to ending the stigma surrounding HIV.

If you feel able to contribute to this valuable research, please contact James at Nottingham Trent University via his e-mail address

January 2018

New syphilis research needs gay men aged 18 - 34

Many people in Nottingham who are living with HIV will remember Nurse Laura Spowage from her tenure at Nottingham City Hospital GU and ID departments.  Now with the Division of Epidemiology and Public Health also at Nottingham City Hospital, Laura is undertaking a study to examine and understand the potential reasons for an increase in positive test results for syphilis with the purpose of informing local health promotion messages.

(Click image above for larger view.)

If you are aged between 18 and 34 and identify as a man who has sex with men, you are invited to take part in the confidential study being organised by the University of Nottingham.  Taking part is a way of helping other people but should that not be enough, as an added incentive, participants are able to enter a draw to win a £50 Amazon voucher.

Through routine anonymous reporting, Public Health England have noticed an increase in test results that are positive for syphilis. The purpose of this study is to examine and understand potential reasons for this by asking questions to understand levels of awareness about syphilis.

Click here to view the Participant Information Sheet.

Laura can be contacted at:

HIV research shows a potential of promise

The Journal of Infectious Diseases recently published the results of the research into a virus being tested in Ottawa as a treatment for HIV. The tests show potential, according to a study by a team of researchers.  The ‘Maraba’ virus was developed by other researchers in Ottawa and is being used to treat cancer in clinical trials.

Head of Infectious Diseases at Ottawa Hospital, Dr. Jonathan Angel and his colleagues theorized that as cells infected with HIV have similar abnormalities as cancer cell, then that same virus could be used to destroy them.  Laboratory tests on cells infected with HIV proved this theory to be true, although Dr. Angel stated that it could be a long time before trials can begin on people living with HIV.  

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