Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon takes an HIV test to help tackle stigma
Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is standing up to stigma – by taking an HIV test in front of the media.
The leader took the test ahead of World AIDS Day on Friday, as part of the campaign by HIV Scotland.
The First Minister supported Scotland’s HIV Anti-Stigma campaign by taking an HIV self-test, which can provide a result in just five minutes.
Ms Sturgeon took the test in front of the country’s press.
Supported by George Valiotis, CEO of HIV Scotland, Ms Sturgeon became the first UK government leader to publicly take an HIV test.
Taking minutes to complete it showed just how easy it is to take a test and that you can get your results instantly. Testing on the NHS is free in Scotland.
More than 5000 people in Scotland have been diagnosed with HIV and around 1000 more people are unaware that they have the virus, which is why regular testing is so important.
Stigma remains the key issue for people living with HIV in Scotland and is one of the biggest barriers to testing. It undermines prevention efforts and can stop people from accessing treatment and support.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “Despite the progress made in recent years, HIV is still a significant public health challenge for Scotland.
“We can all play our part in making life better for those living with HIV. It is important that we continue to work together to eradicate the stigma around the virus and tackle the false myths and prejudices that still surround it.
“Especially on World AIDS Day, and in the months and years to come, I invite you to join me and help raise awareness around HIV.
“By doing so, we will be paying a fitting tribute to those who have lost their lives and – most importantly – we can contribute to reducing the risk of new infections.”
George Valiotis, CEO of HIV Scotland said: “The First Minister today has demonstrated that taking a HIV test is easy.
“It’s important to remember that a positive result no longer means a death sentence; living with HIV is now just like any other long-term health condition.
“Amazing advances in treatment means that people can live a long and healthy life and not pass it on.
“HIV-related stigma remains a key issue for people living with HIV and Scotland’s new anti-stigma strategy provides the foundations for tackling stigma and reaching zero new infections.”
Scotland’s First Minister @nicolasturgeon becomes the first UK government leader to publicly take an HIV test. Ahead of World AIDS Day on Friday, the FM said she wanted to help tackle the stigma around the virus. @hivscotland #zerohivstigma pic.twitter.com/BKPfv9Ja6Q
— Alan Jenkins (@ajjenkins) November 29, 2017
The UK’s Home Secretary Amber Rudd also took an HIV test this month.
The Home Secretary was one of a number of MPs from across all parties to take HIV tests to promote National HIV Testing Week, alongside Britain’s leading HIV and sexual health charity Terrence Higgins Trust.
Ms Rudd was joined in taking tests by Green Party co-leader Caroline Lucas, Public Health Minister Steve Brine, Labour’s former equalities chief Sarah Champion, former Labour leadership challenger Liz Kendall, as well as MPs Lilian Greenwood, Gareth Snell and Tom Pursglove.
And Prince Harry made international news last year when he took an HIV test, and has continued to campaign on the issue publicly – following in the footsteps of his mother, Princess Diana.
Ms Rudd said: “Despite the look on my face, the pain wasn’t that bad! Just took an HIV test with Terrence Higgins Trust to raise awareness for HIV Testing Week.”
Labour’s Sarah Champion said: ‘While it’s encouraging to see some fantastic wins for HIV in England, but there’s still so much left to do to end stigma that surrounds HIV and affects the lives of people who live with it.
“I’m supporting National HIV Testing Week to encourage others to know the benefits of testing, and I stand by the side as an ally of all people living with HIV in the UK.’
Public Health Minister Steve Brine said: “As National HIV Testing Week begins I’m calling on the public to give the finger to HIV. Getting tested is vital, especially for those who may be at higher risk.
“We continue to work closely with PHE, NHSE and charities like Terrace Higgins Trust to dispel the stigma associated with HIV, and we are seeing results as rates of HIV infection are falling.”
Green MP Caroline Lucas said: “Knowing your HIV status is important, as it can help ensure early diagnoses and prevent transmission.
“I support National HIV Testing Week and will continue supporting Terrence Higgins Trust in ending the stigma that surrounds HIV and testing for it, and then eliminating it altogether.”
Hove MP Peter Kyle said: “HIV is a long-term manageable condition and the earlier the diagnosis, the better it is for the patient, so it’s important to get tested no matter who you are.
“The fear and stigma surrounding HIV is still a barrier to testing so I hope Ive shown today that having a test is fuss-free and easy and that I can help make the stigma and fear around HIV a thing of the
Labour’s Liz Kendall said: “It’s time that the stigma that surrounds HIV, and testing for HIV, ended.
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“National HIV Testing Week is an important time to dispel the many myths that surround HIV and to encourage all people to know their status and regularly test.”
Liam Beattie, Campaigns and Parliamentary Officer, Terrence Higgins Trust said: “We’re delighted to have such fantastic cross-party support from MPs this National HIV Testing Week.
“While we’ve seen some major steps in HIV in recent years, the number of late diagnoses and undiagnosed people living with HIV is still a cause for concern.
“It’s vital that we enable people to feel empowered to test and know their status, and dispel the myths that surround testing for and living with HIV, which no doubt support from a number of prominent MPs will hugely help.”