More people than ever are living with HIV in the UK according to the Terrence Higgins Trust who put the current figure at 107,800. Of this number, 24 per cent are not yet aware that they have the virus and the number of people who have acquired the virus in the UK has doubled in the last ten years.
A joint statement from UNAIDS International Goodwill Ambassadors who include Annie Lennox, Victoria Beckham and German footballer Michael Ballack said: “HIV is about people, community and humanity. To end the AIDS epidemic we need change. We need to transform attitudes, improve health systems and respect human rights.”
EastLondonLine boroughs have a higher population of residents living with HIV than the national English average.
Tower Hamlets has 1,260 people aged 15-59 diagnosed with HIV which is approximately twice the national average. On a similar scale Croydon has 1,175 and Hackney has 1,4667 residents aged 15-59 diagnosed with the virus. Lewisham has 1,578 people identified with HIV- almost three times the national average.
ELL asked several local organisations what they are doing for World Aids Day and what they think is the best way to raise awareness and lower the stigma of HIV in our area?
Positive East, East London HIV Charity
“The best way to raise awareness and lower HIV related stigma is by making sex and relationship education mandatory in the school curriculum and by having a national prevention campaign. We haven’t had a national campaign since the 1980’s and many people who are getting infected today weren’t even born then. We regularly go into schools and give talks about HIV, how to avoid it and how we at Positive East help people who are infected and those teenagers – Year 9’s, 10’s and 11’s are totally cool about the content.”
“In the meantime we go out into the community, doing HIV tests… HIV has not gone away. In fact there are now more people living with HIV in Hackney, Tower Hamlets, Lewisham and Croydon than ever before.”
Positive East have pop-up HIV clinics across London for World Aids Day to encourage people to discover their status. You can find details of the testing venues here.
The organisation is also collecting donations outside various tube stations and in Canary Wharf shopping centre. On Friday they threw a charity event at the Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club and yesterday held a 5k Charity run in Victoria Park.
“Raising awareness of HIV and lowering stigma involves education, training for frontline staff and normalising testing… Training staff helps reduce stigma by giving them the skills to communicate effectively about HIV and Aids and feel confident to answer patient questions when offering a test.”
“Educating the public is important to reduce the fear of being tested; people diagnosed with HIV early and with a successful treatment plan can now expect to live as long as someone without HIV.”
The council is locally extending World AIDS day until tomorrow. A mobile clinic is visiting various Croydon locations mobile.
Tower Hamlets Council
“We work closely to promote HIV testing and effective treatment, promote condom use and encourage healthy sexual relationships.”
According to the council there are around 100 people in Tower Hamlets who get diagnosed with HIV every year, however it is estimated that around 400 people in the borough are unaware they have the virus.
Dr Somen Banerjee, director of Tower Hamlets public health said, “Beyond this week, it is still important to practise safer sex, have on-going check-ups and get tested at least once a year or more often if you are very sexually active. The earlier HIV is diagnosed, the more likely treatment will be successful.”
Lewisham Clinical Commissioning Group
Lewisham residents have been encouraged to “show their support for World Aids Day by getting tested for HIV and by wearing a red ribbon- the universal symbol for HIV – uniting with people around the world in the fight against HIV.”
Dr Marc Rowland, Chair of NHS Lewisham CCG said: “It’s important to be in control of your sexual health and how to protect yourself and others from HIV… Many advances have been made in HIV treatment and getting tested early will provide more effective treatment against the virus.”
The Terrence Higgins Trust has today launched an online quiz to test whether the public’s understanding of HIV is up to date or “stuck in the 80s.”
Sonia Trivedy, Fundraising Director at the Trust said “HIV today is in a totally different place from where it was in the 1980s, so it can be frustrating that public attitudes to the condition seem to lag behind.”
“This World Aids Day, we wanted to do something that didn’t just draw attention to declining awareness but actually provided people with clear facts to bring their knowledge up to date.”