World Aids Day message

A personal message from Rosie Robinson Joint Chief Executive of George House Trust for World Aids Day

As the 1st of December approaches each year, my colleagues and I at George House Trust prepare for a time of quiet reflection for World AIDS Day. It’s a time when we remember those that we have lost to HIV over the years, and a time to show our solidarity with people who are living with the virus right across the world.

This year I feel more upbeat and optimistic than I have done for some time about HIV. One of the reasons I feel hopeful is the recent  ‘mini report’ of the latest figures on HIV diagnoses, late diagnosis, and treatment uptake in the UK from NAM .  The report shows generally good results, with downward trends in HIV infections, the proportion of people diagnosed late, and the proportion both on treatment and virally suppressed. The report also shows that the UK has now easily reached the WHO/UNAIDS target of 72.9% of all people living with HIV having undetectable viral loads.

So why is having an undetectable viral load so important for people living with HIV? Firstly it demonstrates that more people are managing this long term condition successfully, which is good for prognosis and health. Secondly, it significantly reduces the risk of onward transmission of the HIV virus. And thirdly, I think that we might just be on the cusp of a major breakthrough when it comes to HIV related stigma.

And stigma is the biggest issue that we deal with at George House Trust. With advances in medication, most people now only have to take one or two tablets a day and the risk of adverse side effects has been reduced (though not eliminated). HIV is now a long-term manageable condition. 

However, HIV related stigma prevents some people living happy, healthy and fulfilling lives. It can lead to isolation and loneliness, even within the LGBT community in Manchester. Rejection in close relationships is still all too common, and this in turn can lead to mental health problems such as depression and low self-esteem.

Surely, once the concept of undetectability is more widely understood in society, then society will have to view people living with HIV in a refreshingly new way.

I also feel optimistic about the increases in the number of people taking a HIV test. It has never been easier to take a test at a number of venues across the city from STI clinics and GP’s through to our colleagues at the LGBT Foundation.

The best news that I have had all year is the successful legal challenge undertaken by The National AIDS Trust (NAT)  NAT challenged NHS England’s refusal to taking responsibility for funding PrEP (Pre-exposure prophylaxis).  NAT argued that if PrEP was available to those most at risk of acquiring the virus, this would have a massive and unprecedented impact on slowing down the rate of new HIV infections.

The court ruled in NAT’s favour, NHS England appealed and on the 10th of November the Court of Appeal confirmed the original decision in favour of NAT.

This is a fabulous victory for NAT and the national HIV sector.

So, I for one am feeling in a celebratory mood this World AIDS Day 2016.

“This is my face” is a fabulous Chilean art exhibition that George House Trust is hosting on Saturday 3rd and Sunday 4thd December 2016 from mid-day until 3.00 p.m., and members of the public are welcome to attend. The venue is 75-77, Ardwick Green, Manchester M12 6FX


story published on  Tue, 22 Nov 2016