Sutton Council is encouraging borough residents to wear a red ribbon to demonstrate solidarity with the cause of a world where HIV stigma is a thing of the past.
This year’s World AIDS Day is an opportunity for borough residents to unite in the fight against HIV by showing support to the millions of people living with HIV and to commemorate people who have died. Wearing a red ribbon is one simple way to do this, the council urges.
The National AIDS Trust has launched a campaign with the theme of Think Positive: Rethink HIV to challenge people to rethink outdated stereotypes, challenge myths and be positive about HIV.
More than 100,000 people are living with HIV in the UK. Globally an estimated 34m people have the virus. Despite the virus only being identified in 1984, at least 35m people have died of HIV or AIDS, making it one of the most destructive pandemics in history.
In the years since then, scientific advances have been made in HIV treatment, laws have been introduced to protect people living with HIV and scientists understand so much more about the condition. Despite this, each year in the UK around 6,000 people are diagnosed with HIV, people do not know the facts about how to protect themselves and others, and stigma and discrimination remain a reality for many people living with the condition.
World AIDS Day is important because it reminds the public and Government that HIV has not gone away – there is still a vital need to raise money, increase awareness, fight prejudice and improve education.
Liberal Democrat-led Sutton Council is encouraging Sutton residents to be tested regularly for HIV if they are sexually active and when they change sexual partners because HIV often has no symptoms. Getting tested for HIV means that, if someone is infected with the virus, they can receive treatment and care before the infection causes too much damage to their body and health.
Cllr Colin Stears, Lib Dem Chair of Sutton Council’s Adult Social Services and Health Committee, said: “More than 100,000 people are living with HIV in the UK. HIV is no respecter of individuals. It affects all sections of the community, regardless of ethnicity, gender, age or affluence.
“Sutton residents are thoughtful and caring people, as shown by the incredible amount of voluntary work and volunteering they do in the community. They can support efforts to find a cure for HIV and AIDS and to show solidarity with people living with the condition by wearing a ribbon.
“Residents can be tested for HIV at their GP surgery, sexual health clinics or the Genitourinary Medicine (GUM) clinic at St Helier Hospital. Don’t put off being tested, for the sake of your health and your partners’.”
This year’s World AIDS Day international theme is Getting to Zero and has been set by the World AIDS Campaign, an international coalition of HIV and AIDS groups and networks.
Residents are urged to find out more about HIV by reading the Do It London HIV Testing: FAQ by clicking here.
HIV is transmitted through bodily fluids such as semen, vaginal fluid and blood. Most cases of HIV transmission are through sex, which is why condoms and lubricant are important in reducing that risk. Condoms also protect against other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) such as gonorrhoea, chlamydia and syphilis.
The only way for someone to know if they have been infected with HIV is to take an HIV test. Putting off having a test could be harmful to their health – if they do have HIV, they will receive the best NHS treatment and care. So the sooner residents find out, the better.
Someone with undiagnosed HIV might look and feel healthy for years, but the infection will damage their health if left untreated. They are also likely to pass on the infection to their sexual partners.
HIV in the UK
HIV continues to be a serious health condition in the UK. Public Health England has provided some recent statistics:
- An estimated 103,700 people live with HIV in the UK.
- Around 18,700 (17 per cent) of people living with HIV in the UK are unaware of their HIV infection and have not yet been diagnosed.
- More than 980,000 HIV tests were performed in sexual health clinics in 2014.
- There were 6,151 new HIV diagnoses in 2014.
- In 2014, two-fifths (40 per cent) of people diagnosed with HIV were diagnosed late, after they should have started treatment.
- In 2014, less than 1 per cent of people with HIV died.
- Of new HIV diagnoses in 2014, 55 per cent were among men who have sex with men (MSM).
- Over the past decade there has been a shift in age distribution of those accessing care. In 2014, almost half (48 per cent) of all people seen for HIV care were aged 45 and over. Those aged over 55 account for 15 per cent.