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New campaign to end HIV stigma

A new campaign featuring powerful personal stories has been launched to end HIV stigma.

Terrence Higgins Trust’s Can’t Pass It On campaign posters contrast with a recent YouGov survey which highlights the out of date beliefs about how HIV is passed on.

The survey revealed that just under 1 in 5 (19%) Brits are aware that people living with HIV and on effective HIV treatment can’t pass it on to others.

In the UK a huge 97% of those diagnosed and on treatment are virally supressed, which means levels of virus in the blood are so low that they can’t pass on HIV.

Despite this being confirmed by two major scientific studies, 41% of Brits believe everyone living with HIV can pass on the virus and 64% would feel uncomfortable having sex with someone living with HIV who is on effective treatment.

Charity Nyirenda is living with HIV and is part of Terrence Higgins Trust’s new stigma busting campaign as she feels passionately about educating others about the realities of living with the virus.

Charity Nyirenda said:

I’m proud to be part of this work with Terrence Higgins Trust to bust myths and shout loud and proud that effective treatment means I can’t pass on HIV. There’s no reason to treat me or anyone else living with HIV any differently.

Black African people like me are more affected by HIV but knowledge among my community remains low, which is something I’m keen to change. I’ve been described as having ‘AIDS’, which isn’t the case – HIV and AIDS are two different things and I’m living well with HIV.

While condoms remain the best way to prevent all sexually transmitted infections, the message has changed to one with the power to transform the lives of those with HIV– ‘people living with HIV and on effective treatment can’t pass it on’.

For the past 20 years, evidence has been building to show that the likelihood of passing on HIV is linked to the amount of virus in the blood, also known as viral load. Treatment is deemed effective when it reduces this to undetectable levels. This can take up to six months from starting treatment.

Dr Michael Brady, Medical Director at Terrence Higgins Trust and National Advisor for LGBT Health at NHS England, said:

Progress in the treatment for HIV is one of the greatest triumphs of modern medicine. In just a couple of decades effective treatment means a HIV diagnosis has gone from a virtual death sentence to us now saying with confidence – and without doubt – that people living with HIV who are on effective treatment cannot pass the virus on to their sexual partners.

This has an incredible impact on the lives of people living with HIV and is a powerful message to address HIV-related stigma. And while just 19% of people know about this progress, we have a duty to keep on shouting about it until everyone knows the truth about HIV.

Image: Terrence Higgins Trust

About the author

Founder Member of Campaign Collective, chair of the Public Relations & Communications Association Charity and Not-For-Profit Group. Write mainly about charity, public sector and social enterprise communications.