World AIDS Day

Today’s guest blog is from Aled Osborne, Fundraising and Communications manager for Brigstowe and LGBT & HIV activist.

World AIDS Day is a global awareness day that is held annually on December 1st. This day is an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV, to show support for people living with HIV, and to commemorate those who have died from an AIDS-related illness.

In the UK over 105,000 people are living with HIV. Despite the virus only being identified in 1984, more than 35 million people have died, making it one of the most destructive pandemics in history.

2020 for all of us has been a challenging year but here at Brigstowe, along with our city-wide partners, we are all dedicated in ensuring this year’s World Aids Day is no different. Brigstowe are a local HIV support charity. We support anyone living with or affected by HIV in Bristol and the surrounding area and have been doing so for nearly 25 years.

Today, advancements in treatment mean that people living with HIV can live long and healthy lives. This treatment means they cannot pass HIV onto their sexual partners. Men and women living with HIV can now start families safe in the knowledge that their child will not be diagnosed as HIV positive. This is known as U=U or Undetectable=Untransmittable. Despite these medical advancements, societal attitudes still remain in the past. People do not know the facts of living with HIV in 2020 and stigma and discrimination remain a reality. 1 in 3 people living with HIV have faced HIV-related stigma and people living with HIV are twice as likely to be diagnosed with depression as the general public. It is also this stigma that prevents people from getting tested. In Bristol it is estimated that 8% of people living with HIV are undiagnosed. It is also this stigma which, for the approximately 1000 people living with HIV in Bristol, can prevent them from feeling part of a community and maintaining long and meaningful relationships.

From City Leadership, NHS Services to third sector we are all committed to ending new HIV diagnoses by 2030 and to eradicating HIV-related stigma.

That is why we as a City are part of the global Fast Track Cities Initiative. The Bristol Fast Track City action plan is also included in the Bristol One City plan.

The work Bristol is doing is leading the way. Our partners at Unity Sexual Health were able to be one of the first UK cities to deliver on the National PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis – a drug which has been proven to prevent HIV acquisition) roll-out and during the first lockdown initiated a programme to test the homeless communities of Bristol. As a result of our Fast Track Cities partnership, nearly £500k in funding has recently been secured from The Health Foundation for a three year project to tackle HIV inequalities in African and Caribbean heritage communities of Bristol.

In March, Bristol was visited by the National HIV Commission. Information from their visit fed into their forthcoming recommendations to Government on how to end HIV transmission in the UK by 2030. These will be published today, on World AIDS Day, in an event including Sir Elton John.