BLOG | How we’re working to end new cases of HIV in Liverpool
On World AIDS day, Advanced Public Health Practitioner and Sexual Health and HIV commissioning lead, James Woolgar tells us more about how Liverpool is supporting those currently living with HIV, how we’re remembering those lost and how the city is working hard to end all new cases of 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 the disease and to commemorate and remember those who have died.
Liverpool has supported World AIDS Day since it was introduced in 1988, and this year we are supporting local charities to deliver some outreach and educational projects to support those at risk of risk of acquiring HIV, those living with HIV and those affected by the legacy of AIDS.
This year, our local theme includes supporting ‘The Many Faces of HIV’ and ‘Everyone Should Test’. Being aware of your status is absolutely crucial to ending new transmissions, and getting early treatment and support should it be needed.
We have collaborated this year with partners Sahir, and Homotopia, to co-ordinate events at the Museum of Liverpool to showcase the UK AIDS Memorial Quilts. These are a poignant piece of social history. The selection of quilts being shown have been made by loved ones of those lost to HIV-related illness, some of whom were from Merseyside. We will also see a range of high-profile buildings be lit up in red and wear the ‘Red Ribbon’ to show solidarity.
Four years ago, we signed up to ‘Fast-Track Cities’– a global network that shares expertise and works in partnership to eradicate HIV and AIDS by 2030.
As part of this network of 250 cities, Liverpool has already exceeded our 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 a 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 are also aiming to reduce the stigma associated with HIV and to normalise testing – ensuring people feel comfortable about being checked – and know where to go for help and support.
There are currently 873 people in Liverpool living with HIV – which is now below that seen in 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 – this has now fallen to an estimated 45-50 people.
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.
Four years on, 95% of people living with HIV now know their status, 99% of those diagnosed are receiving treatment and of those being treated, 98% are now virally suppressed.
Liverpool is moving rapidly towards ending new cases of HIV – something that could come as soon as 2026-27, but we need more people to be diagnosed early – so we can ensure 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.
This year’s World AIDS Day vigil is scheduled to take place between 6-7pm on 1st December at Liverpool Parish Church (Our Lady and Saint Nicholas). There is no need to book, please come along and show your support. There will be a range of speakers sharing experiences, and Director of Public Health, Professor Matthew Ashton, will deliver a keynote address on behalf of the Council.
This service launched in September 2022 and is a charity-led partnership between BHA, George House Trust and LGBT Foundation, which exists to challenge and address health inequalities and support people to improve their sexual health and wellbeing.