Megan Boot, right, is a trainee Broadcast Journalist at Cardiff University. She has a Social and Political Sciences degree from Cambridge University. Born and raised in South Wales, she blogs about health issues in Cardiff at www.meganboot.com.
Today, Megan’s looking at World AIDS Day and what’s being done to help treat the disease in Wales
Since 1988, World AIDS Day has been set up to fight HIV prejudice and raise awareness about protecting yourself from HIV transmission.
The Terrence Higgins Trust Cymru is an HIV and sexual health charity that has had an office in Cardiff since 2003. Speaking with Joshua Hall, the charity’s Service Manager, he was keen to emphasise that prevention is “everyone’s business”:
To get the message of prevention across, Terrence Higgins Trust Cymru has been travelling around colleges in South Wales on the run up to World AIDS Day. A lot of their prevention work involves dispelling myths held about HIV, Joshua Hall explains:
Some of the most common questions they get are about HIV transmission. Data collected by the Health Protection Agency showed that around 90% of people diagnosed with HIV in Wales in 2009 were infected sexually. The National AIDS Trust explain that the most common ways HIV is passed on are:
- Sex without a condom with someone living with HIV
- Sharing infected needles, syringes or other injecting drug equipment
- From an HIV-positive mother (to her child) during pregnancy, childbirth or breastfeeding.
Terrence Higgins Trust Cymru believe that just under 1500 people in Wales are thought to be living with HIV, and an estimated 300 people in that number don’t realise they’re infected.
To try to encourage people to find out their HIV status, the charity is running free fast one-hour HIV tests on World AIDS Day:
Thanks to good treatment, HIV does not have to develop into AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome).
Nicola Jacobs, Policy Officer from the National AIDS Trust, said: “There is now very effective HIV treatment available which keeps the virus under control and the immune system healthy.
“In fact, most people living with HIV in the UK will not go on to develop AIDS.”
As well as prevention, World AIDS Day also raises awareness of the social stigma people living with HIV can face.
Terrence Higgins Trust Cymru often hear of people being fearful of rejection from their friends and family, as well as negative attitudes from individuals and services, as a response to their HIV status.
Joshua Hall hopes that World AIDS Day will encourage greater empathy towards those living with HIV: