On World Aids Day, let’s ask ourselves how to end the stigma
2017-12-01 16:55:00 -

Richard Carson

Richard Carson, ACET


I have been speaking about HIV to groups and individuals around Ireland and around the world for over 17 years. The foundation of my message has always been the same; every community venue has two groups of people: those among us who are living with HIV and those of us who are not. Those living with HIV can transmit the virus to those of us who are not, and we need to be aware of how to prevent this.


However, in 2017 everything changed, and it is all because of ‘U=U’. Over the past few years researchers have followed thousands of sero-discordant couples (where one is living with HIV and one not) and have shown that if the individual living with HIV adheres to their medication and has an undetectable level of the virus in their blood (as over 90 per cent of those on medication do), then sexual transmission to their partners will not take place, even if they do not use a condom.


“Ah but surely there’s a chance,” I hear you saying. No, there is not. U=U means ‘undetectable equals untransmissable’. HIV medication is now so effective that it can play a positive role in preventing the spread of HIV. 


This, of course, is not the case for all living with HIV. Anywhere up to 25 percent of those living with the virus in Ireland are not aware of their status. They are indeed at risk of passing on HIV. 


But a simple test will reveal a result which can allow them to access the medicine for free and prevent onward transmission, as well as improving their own health.


So just like my first experience of World Aids Day in 1999, the room is still divided into two groups – but it is now those who know their HIV status and those who do not. Which group are you in?


This 1 December let us ask ourselves how we can play our part in ending the stigma associated with testing in our homes, workplaces, schools, colleges and places of worship. We have nothing to fear but the truth.


For details of your local testing venues, visit acet.ie or www.hivservices.ie.

Richard Carson is CEO of ACET Ireland




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