‘Listen To Science, Not Stigma’: HIV Experts Warn Outdated Beliefs Still Fuel Discrimination in 2017. 29/6/2017

Published by INEWS

HIV experts are urging the public to “listen to science, not stigma” after a survey found 40 per cent of the population would feel uncomfortable about going on a date with somebody living with HIV who was on effective treatment.

Around one in three (32 per cent) adults would feel uncomfortable giving First Aid to someone with HIV who is on effective treatment, and over one in five people (22 per cent) felt the same way about playing contact sport with them.

Stigma and discrimination

Medical evidence has shown that people living with HIV who are on effective treatment cannot pass on the virus but just nine per cent of the British public are aware of this, according to the YouGov survey, commissioned by the Terrence Higgins Trust.

"Only nine per cent of people know that a person with HIV on effective treatment cannot pass on the virus"

Outdated beliefs about the virus’s transmission are fuelling stigma and discrimination, and preventing people from coming forward for testing, the HIV and sexual health charity warned.

It also stressed there is “no risk” of contracting HIV from any of the situations outlined above.

‘Number one problem’ is stigma

Alex Causton-Ronaldson, 26, from London, was diagnosed with HIV in 2014. He is on treatment and is “healthy and well” and can’t pass on the virus.

“People aren’t aware of the latest medical knowledge…they treat you as though you’re a risk to them”

“The number one problem with living with HIV is the stigma,” he said.

“People aren’t aware of the latest medical knowledge and they treat you as though you’re a risk to them. They don’t realise the effect this has on your self esteem.”

He added: “You hear about people who are too scared to get tested, because of the stigma that’s attached to HIV. People are then diagnosed far too late. Stigma can be a killer.”

Unfounded fears

Dr Michael Brady, medical director at the Terrence Higgins Trust, said the findings of the charity’s survey were “saddening” as the public’s fears are “unfounded”.

“We can say, with confidence, that people who are on effective treatment can’t transmit HIV – they are not infectious,” Dr Bradby said.

“There is no reason people on effective HIV treatment can’t date, fall in love, have sex, work or have families just like anyone else.

“We urgently need to bring people up to date with medical evidence and listen to science, not stigma.”

Get tested

For the past 20 years, evidence has been building to show that the likelihood of passing on HIV is linked to the amount of the virus in the blood.

“One person in seven living with HIV doesn’t know they have it, meaning they can still pass on the virus”

Treatment is deemed effective when this “viral load” is reduced to undetectable levels, which can take up to six months.

People with an undetectable viral load cannot pass on HIV, a landmark study published last year found.

Meanwhile, the Terrence Higgins Trust said, one person in seven living with HIV doesn’t know they have it, meaning they are not getting treatment and can still pass on the virus.

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