It’s been 40 years since the first reported cases of HIV in the UK, and since then, medical advancements in treatment have meant people who test positive are able to live long, healthy lives without fear of passing the virus onto their partner.
Yet despite this, stigma and a lack of understanding around HIV still remains, with some people having a poor knowledge of how the virus can be transmitted, as well as negative attitudes and beliefs about those who have it. Elton John, for instance, has just criticised US rapper DaBaby for fuelling ‘stigma’ around HIV.
Only a third of people who took part in a recent UK-wide survey said they fully agreed they have sympathy for all people living with HIV, regardless of how they got it.
The researchers from the National Aids Trust and Fast-Track Cities London are now calling for the UK Government to do more to raise awareness. In the meantime, here are some simple things you can do to be an ally and an advocate for people affected by HIV…
Everyone can play an important role in reducing stigma and discrimination simply by knowing what’s fact and what’s myth when it comes to HIV.
Whether you watch an educational TV series like Channel 4’s It’s a Sin, listen to a podcast like Positively Thriving, or simply spend your lunch break reading some thoroughly researched articles, it’s helpful to take a moment to refresh your knowledge.
Challenge other people’s opinions
Negative attitudes and beliefs about people with HIV won’t change if people who have harmful opinions aren’t challenged and corrected.
The fear surrounding the HIV epidemic in the 1980s persists today and means that some people often wrongly associate the health issue with shame and personal irresponsibility.
A small but powerful way you can support the fight is by having conversations about HIV with the people closest to you. Part of being an ally is calling out unacceptable behaviour from friends and colleagues when you see or hear it.
Donate to a charity
One of the most effective ways you can influence change is by donating to causes and organisations that support the government’s drive to eradicate new HIV cases by 2030, and support individuals living with HIV.
The National Aids Trust, the Terrence Higgins Trust and the Elton John Aids Foundation are just a few charities that support people living with HIV, while making sure everyone has access to free testing.
Giving your time to HIV-related efforts is another way you can be part of the change, while doing something helpful for your local community.
Whether you choose to join a campaign, volunteer for a charity, or raise money through a sponsored run, there are so many ways you can help on a micro-level.
Take a test
Everyone should routinely get tested for HIV, as the only way to eradicate transmissions is to know who is negative and who is positive.
Testing is the only way to be sure if you have HIV or not, and sometimes people can live for years unaware they have it.
So whether you believe you’re at risk or not (and remember, HIV does not discriminate), it’s helpful to take a test so you can be sure of your status.