By John Glenton, Executive Director of Care and Support
On 1 December we marked the 30th annual World AIDS Day.
The theme this year is ‘know your status’, encouraging people to be aware of their HIV infection status and to access HIV prevention, treatment and care services.
Only 75% of people living with HIV are aware of their status, meaning that 9.4 million people aren’t aware that they’re HIV positive as they haven’t been tested.
In addition, around 1 million people world-wide die every year from HIV because they don’t know they have the virus and aren’t receiving treatment or start treatment too late.
Last week Lloyd Russell-Moyle, the Labour MP for Brighton, announced in the House of Commons that he is HIV positive. Lloyd, only the second ever MP to announce that he has HIV, said he wanted to speak out because he has ‘a duty of care as a Member of Parliament’.
I believe that public figures who come forward and share their diagnosis help to normalise HIV and open up a conduit for information to be shared on treatment and prevention of the virus.
There has been a 17% year on year decrease in new HIV diagnoses in the UK and this World AIDS Day could be the reason you consider getting yourself tested. It is also very important to encourage others to get tested too, as there’s no shame in doing so.
By normalising testing it helps to fight to erase stigma and discrimination against HIV victims. World AIDS Day is a day to show solidarity for the millions of people living with HIV worldwide.
In the early 1990s I trained as a volunteer HIV and AIDS counsellor and in those days, we encouraged people to think carefully before getting tested.
There were very few treatment options available that were proven to work and just having the test on your medical records could mean that you were refused insurance, you couldn’t get a mortgage and may even lose your job.
Thankfully now many people are living well long after diagnosis and drug treatments are available that have a very high likelihood of being successful.