Thursday, 1 December 2016

Leadership. Commitment. Impact: the continuing fight

December 1, World AIDS Day, the day millions of people around the world come together in solidarity, to raise awareness of HIV and AIDS and to remember those who have died as a result.

After over 30 years fighting the virus, an estimated 90,000 people live with HIV in the UK, with 6,000 new cases diagnosed every year, and it appears that even after three decades of campaigning and raising awareness, many key myths about HIV are still widely believed.

A study by YouGov shows that almost a third of people in Britain think you can catch HIV by sharing a toothbrush with someone who is infected. The study also suggested that one in 10 people believe the virus can be transmitted through sharing scissors at the hairdressers.

In response to the findings, leading sexual health charity the Terrence Higgins Trust said they show the "inaccurate myths", that remain believed by some.

Chief executive of the charity Ian Green said: "we've come a long way since the AIDS crisis first emerged, when the nation was gripped by panic and fear", adding "It's not over. While science has moved on, we can see today that inaccurate myths from the 1980s are still deeply entrenched in society".

The charity say that these myths create a stigma towards those who are positive.

I recently watched a film on Netflix called 'Holding the Man', which is based on a true story and addresses the AIDS crisis in the 1980's, capturing the horror as gay men died in huge numbers, and governments failed to act, even after years of countless deaths, the youth of an entire community were left to die.

Speaking recently English comedian and activist, Stephen Fry, illustrated this horrific time in the history of the gay community saying "we saw our friends, lovers and families die", adding "a generation of friends were lost and bright, beautiful lights were snuffed out before their time. As a community, we are still recovering from that awful time".

Just by reading those words from Fry, I actually tear up at the thought, and I am so greatful I did not have to suffer such loss.

'Holding the Man' is set in Australia and focusses primarily on a gay couple, together since their school days, and how they both contract the virus. It's an absolutely heartbreaking watch but shows how far things have come in terms of treatment, and attitudes towards the virus.

Recently NHS England lost a legal battle to fund the HIV preventative treatment PrEP, with the High Court ruling that they should fund PrEP, after the NHS said they would not fund it (Click Here for more information).

This years theme for World AIDS Day is 'Leadership. Commitment. Impact', highlighting the need for further action and commitment to fighting the virus around the world.

I believe today is a time for remembrance as well as a time for recognition of the fight which still lies ahead, to bust the myths, and hopefully one day eradicate the virus from the face of the planet.

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