Last month, Waverley Care launched its Get to Zero campaign at Scottish Parliament, which aims to achieve zero new HIV transmissions in Scotland by 2030. This national campaign is calling on the government to do more to ensure Scotland reaches its goal and becomes one of the first countries in the world to have reached zero new transmissions. Specially, Waverley Care has asked the government to
- Introduce opt-out bloodborne virus testing in emergency departments.
- Establish a Scottish national HIV testing week.
- Provide universal and barrier-free access across Scotland to pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP).
By normalising HIV testing and integrating it into primary care, it eliminates the stigma often associated with seeking a specific HIV test and creates an environment where individuals can feel comfortable discussing their sexual health openly. It can also help reach populations facing barriers to accessing traditional testing services. These are just some of the ways in which normalising HIV testing can lead to a significant reduction in new HIV infections and combat public stigma.
It’s been over 40 years since the first person in the UK, Terence Higgins, died of an AIDS-related illness, and although there have been significant treatment advancements for HIV over the years, stigma, health inequalities and discrimination are still prevalent today.
A common misconception that still exists in 2023 is that being diagnosed with HIV is a death sentence when medical evidence now shows that with effective treatment a person living with HIV can lead a long and healthy life. In fact, in November 2022, Public Health Scotland published new data about HIV which showed that 94% of people who have HIV and are on antiretroviral therapy have achieved an undetectable viral load. This can take up to six months after HIV treatment has started.
Other myths that need debunking include that HIV only affects certain populations. When in reality, HIV can affect anyone, regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity or drug use history. HIV does not discriminate and therefore, everyone should get tested.
We are supporting Waverley Care’s Get to Zero campaign by doing a sponsored cycle/walk alongside the iconic Hadrian’s Wall on July 25-27. Please donate to our JustGiving page if you can.