Each year, people around the globe come together to commemorate World AIDS Day on 1 December. Advanced Public Health Practitioner (Sexual Health and HIV lead), James Woolgar explains how Liverpool is once again uniting to show support for people living with HIV, the progress being made to eradicate the virus and how we’re remembering those lost to HIV/AIDS-related illnesses.
“Liverpool has supported World AIDS Day (WAD) since it began in 1988 – and this year is no different.
Liverpool City Council has been working hard in partnership with system stakeholders (including NHS partners and local charities) to deliver a programme of outreach and engagement – to raise awareness of the risk of acquiring HIV, highlight the importance of testing and the support available for those living with HIV and those affected by the legacy of AIDS.
Thursday 1 December will see civic buildings lit up red, alongside a vigil at The Church of Our Lady and St Nicholas to remember those who have died from HIV/AIDS-related illnesses.
Liverpool’s Sexual Health Service Axess are delivering a series of health promotion events in the city, and Liverpool PaSH Partnership (Passionate about Sexual Health) are running a dedicated social media campaign promoting the importance of testing and knowing your status, alongside practising safer sex.
The team at Sahir House have launched their campaign – “End Complacency, End Stigma, End Inequalities, End AIDS” – which reminds us all of the role we can play in preventing new cases of HIV and how we can help fight stigma.
We’re proud to be a ‘Fast Track City’, and as part of this programme, Liverpool is committed to ending all new transmissions of HIV by 2030 – and has already exceeded the original ‘triple 90’ targets relating to testing, treatment and viral suppression.
We’re determined to make a difference to people’s lives and end HIV transmission once and for all.
We’ve done incredibly well to ensure that 93% of people in Liverpool who are living with HIV know their status (and have accessed testing), 99% of those people living with a HIV diagnosis are receiving treatment, and 97% of those being treated are virally suppressed. This means that they cannot transmit HIV to others – the virus is undetectable and ultimately untransmittable.
There are currently 893 people of all ages in Liverpool living with HIV which is comparable with other large core cities.
Prior to the ‘Fast-Track Cities’ programme, it was estimated that up to 115 people in the city were infected but unaware of their status – this has now dropped to an estimated 55-60, and Liverpool is moving rapidly towards HIV eradication – something that could come as soon as 2027.
We’re really pleased with the excellent progress that we’ve made, but we do acknowledge that there is still work to do in relation to HIV – particularly late diagnosis.
Half of people recently diagnosed were diagnosed late, meaning they didn’t start treatment as early as they could – which could have led to them becoming unnecessarily ill. We want to respond to this, and to continue to improve our HIV testing coverage and uptake across the city.
That will naturally assist our aim to ensure that everyone is diagnosed and in treatment – and help us to achieve elimination.
The more that people who are diagnosed early, the better we can ensure they are treated and supported to live long and healthy lives.
We’re also working hard to increase access to the game changing prevention drug PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis) – as this prevents HIV transmission in the first place, and is a vital tool in ensuring HIV elimination in Liverpool, and beyond.
Although there is still no cure, early diagnosis and treatment means that people living with HIV can expect to live a normal life span – however, we can all play our part in helping reduce stigma and discrimination, which are still a reality for many people.”