1 in 5 Brits would be ‘uncomfortable’ wearing a World AIDS Day ribbon
One in five Brits say they would feel uncomfortable wearing a ribbon for World AIDS Day – revealing the extent to which stigma, prejudice and fear still surround HIV.
HIV charity Terrence Higgins Trust commissioned the YouGov survey of 2,049 people.
The survey found that 20 percent of British adults would feel uncomfortable wearing a red ribbon on this day to show support and raise awareness of HIV.
Shockingly, over a third (34 percent) of these respondents said this was because they wouldn’t want other people to think they have HIV or AIDS.
Just 5 per cent of gay people would feel uncomfortable wearing the ribbon, compared with 22 per cent of heterosexuals
The charity says that this shows much of the stigma that still surrounds people living with HIV/AIDS.
Stigma and fear remain key barriers to testing, diagnosis and access to life-saving treatment.
But despite negative public perception, HIV/AIDS no longer means an early death.
New data shows that people diagnosed with HIV have – for the very first time – the same overall mortality rate as the general public.
The Public Health England figures show rates of undiagnosed HIV remain unacceptably high, with 1 in 8 of all people living with HIV unaware they have the virus.
This is bad for their health and increases the likelihood of them unwittingly passing on HIV.
Public Health Minister Steve Brine MP pledged to tackle the stigma that surrounds HIV at the charity’s World AIDS Day reception in Parliament.
Steve Brine MP, Public Health Minister, said: “Over the past 30 years we have come a long way but it is completely unacceptable that in 2017 there is still a stigma associated with HIV.
“The red ribbon of World AIDS Day should be seen as a symbol of unity and the excellent progress we’re making towards eliminating HIV infections and HIV associated deaths.”
Ian Green, Chief Executive of Terrence Higgins Trust, said: “Incredible medical advances have been made since our namesake Terry Higgins was one of the very first to die of an AIDS-related illness 35 years ago.
“An HIV diagnosis used to be a death sentence but that’s no longer the case.
“Today the UK is closer than ever to beating HIV with an 18 per cent drop in new diagnoses in the UK – the first significant decline since the very start of the epidemic. But we won’t achieve this ambition until we stamp out HIV stigma for good.”
Politicians and senior figures are making the day.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has released a World AIDS Day ribbon, while newly-engaged couple Prince Harry and Meghan Markle will visit an event in Nottingham, hosted by Terrence Higgins Trust to mark World AIDS Day, for their first official public engagement.
Speaking at the opening of Terrence Higgins Trust’s pop-up shop in Hackney last month, Prince Harry said: “We mustn’t be complacent.
“We’ve got everything here: all the equipment, all the testing ability. We owe it to this generation to be able to eradicate this once and for all.”
The Prince did his own bit to tackle stigma recently, when he took an HIV test himself in a live video.
Scotland’s Nicola Sturgeon also took an HIV test this week.
The leader took the test 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.
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.”
Elsewhere on World AIDS Day, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has attacked government cuts to the sexual health sector.
In a message marking World AIDS Day today, Mr Corbyn said: “Since the last World AIDS Day there has been a reported fall in the number of people being diagnosed with HIV for the first time since the 1980s.
“Frequent testing and the HIV prevention drug PrEP are major contributing factors but in some parts of our country cuts of more than 20% have already led to GUM service closures, and £531 million more will be cut from the public health budgets in this Parliament.
“These cuts will impact HIV transmission rates right at the moment our efforts are beginning to pay off. So the Tories must end their health cuts and we must make sure infection rates fall in all of our communities and in every country around the world.
“Worldwide 37 million people live with HIV and nearly 2 million children.
“This year, the United Nations’ campaign for World AIDS Day, ‘My Health, My Right’, because everyone has the right to accessible and quality healthcare free from discrimination and investments in treatments we can end AIDS.
“We must also end the stigma and prejudice. This is why I will be proud to wear the red ribbon on Friday, a sign of solidarity and respect.
“I hope that you will join with me in supporting World AIDS Day.”