On World AIDS Day, Advanced Public Health Practitioner, James Woolgar explains how Liverpool is supporting those currently living with HIV, how we’re remembering those we’ve lost and how the city is on track to eliminate HIV within the next decade.
“World AIDS Day takes place each year on 1 December – this is an opportunity for people across the world to unite in the fight against HIV, show their support for people living with HIV and to commemorate and remember those who have died.
“Liverpool has supported World AIDS Day since it began in 1988, and this year we are supporting local charities to deliver outreach and educational projects to support those at risk of acquiring HIV, those living with HIV and those affected by the legacy of AIDS.
“Throughout November, 24 Kitchen Street have been running crafting workshops with local textiles Artist Graeme Lavery – where people have been able to contribute to a memorial quilt in memory of loved ones lost. The team at Sahir House have been delivering a series of testing events and have launched a campaign to raise awareness of the importance of knowing your status and reducing the stigma associated with HIV.
“Alongside these projects, we’ve also been promoting the importance of vaccination against Covid-19 – as evidence suggests people living with HIV are a third more likely to be admitted to hospital with complications from coronavirus.
“Three years ago, we signed up to ‘Fast-Track Cities’– a global network that shares expertise and work in partnership to eradicate HIV and AIDS by 2030.
“As part of this network of 250 cities, Liverpool has already exceeded the original ‘triple 90’ targets which relate to testing, treatment and viral suppression.
“In real terms this has meant at least:
90% of people living with HIV know their status, and have been tested and are aware
90% of those living with an HIV diagnosis are now receiving treatment
90% of those being treated are now virally suppressed and are on track to having an undetectable viral load – meaning they cannot transmit HIV to others
“We also have a further target of reducing the stigma associated with HIV and to normalise testing – ensuring people feel comfortable about being checked – and equipped with the knowledge about knowing where to go for help and support.
“There are currently 676 people in Liverpool living with HIV, this is comparable with other large core cities. Prior to the ‘Fast-Track Cities’ programme, it was estimated that up to 115 people in Liverpool were infected – but unaware of their status – this has now dropped by a third.
“Of these people, half were diagnosed late, meaning they didn’t start treatment as early as they could – which could have led to them becoming unnecessarily ill.
“Three years on, 93% of people living with HIV now know their status, 99% of those diagnosed are receiving treatment, and of those being treated, 97% are now virally suppressed.
“Liverpool is moving rapidly towards HIV eradication – something that could come as soon as 2026-27, but we need more people being diagnosed early – so we can ensure that they are treated and supported to live long and healthy lives, and to increase access to Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) as this is a real game changing drug which prevents HIV transmission in the first place.
“The newly published national HIV Action Plan (out today) gives us further opportunity to galvanise our approach and to update key actions related to this area to move us even closer to that crucial elimination target.”