Hackney marks World AIDS Day
This World AIDS Day, Hackney Council is urging everyone in the borough to unite together in support of the fight against HIV and HIV-related stigma.
The landscape for people living with HIV in England is dramatically different now to what it has been in the past. In both Hackney and the City, the rate of those with diagnosed HIV has been steadily declining since 2014.
Recent data from Public Health England has shown that cases of HIV in the UK are decreasing each year; in 2019 there was a 10% drop in new diagnoses from 2018 and a 34% drop compared to 2014. But there are still over 100,000 people living with HIV in the UK and of these, around 6,600 are undiagnosed so do not know they are HIV positive. 42% of those diagnosed in 2019 were diagnosed late.
Advances in the detection and treatment of HIV over the decades mean that individuals living with HIV taking the proper treatment to suppress the viral load in their blood, are unable to pass on the virus to others, including sexual partners. This is known as “Undetectable Equals Untransmittable”, “U=U” a campaign. Despite this, misinformation and stigma surrounding HIV, and what it means to be living with HIV, persists.
The stigma that affects people living with HIV stops others from getting tested. The more people who test and get access to effective treatment in a timely manner, the fewer HIV transmissions will happen.
There are a wide range of support services available to local residents around HIV prevention, testing and treatment. For example, residents with mild or no symptoms can access free home kits to test for HIV and other STIs through the Sexual Health London portal or by contacting Positive East.
Positive East also provides holistic health and wellbeing support to people with a positive HIV diagnosis.
PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis) - a treatment taken by people without HIV to prevent the risk of them contracting HIV - is now fully available across England and can be accessed through local sexual health clinics.
A full list of support services available around HIV and sexual and reproductive health more generally can be found on the Hackney website. These services are still available and are being delivered with the safety of service users and staff as a priority during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
This is a year where following campaigning from activists and councils like Hackney we have finally seen PrEP fully available and funded in England. This will enable us to expand the range of HIV prevention support locally, including for marginalised groups, but other issues remain.
I want everyone in Hackney to work together to tackle HIV stigma this World AIDS day by promoting the message U = U, which stands for Undetectable = Untransmissible. The simple fact is that people can’t pass on HIV when they are taking modern HIV medication and have an undetectable viral load.This is a powerful message for tackling HIV stigma and can therefore help encourage more people to get tested and take preventative action.
Our goal in the UK is to end new HIV transmissions by 2030. The recent fall in new HIV diagnosis shows us that prevention work, such as frequent testing and access to PrEP, is effective. However, late diagnosis is still high, meaning regular testing isn't reaching all of our communities. This could be due to stigma and people not knowing how to access a test; we want to urge people to get tested regularly and break the stigma around HIV.
Hackney residents can access online HIV and STI self-testing, as well as advice, peer support and counselling for people living HIV, through Positive East by telephone 020 7791 2855 or email firstname.lastname@example.org (Monday to Friday, 9.30am to 5pm).
For children, young people and families affected by HIV, Body & Soul offers an array of free support, including peer support groups, one-to-one counselling, information and advocacy on a range of issues, including welfare, human rights and immigration. To find out more, please call 020 7923 6880 or email the team.
Pre-exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP), as well as other sexual health services, can be accessed through local sexual health clinics across the City and Hackney: Clifden Centre, Ivy Centre and 80 Leadenhall. Find out more on the Homerton University Hospital Foundation Trust website.
More information about HIV prevention can be found at the Do It London website.