Prime Minister Theresa May’s message for World Aids Day

As Prime Minister, I am proud to wear a red ribbon on World Aids Day, to show my support for people living with HIV in the UK and all across the world.

I am proud too of the role that the UK has played in driving advances in the treatment and prevention of HIV, including of course through the brilliant care and support of our NHS which makes such a difference in the lives of people living with HIV.

But for all the progress in treatment and prevention, public attitudes have not progressed as far or as fast.

The latest UK HIV Stigma Index found that almost one in five respondents living with HIV in the UK have had suicidal thoughts in the past twelve months.

While around half reported feelings such as shame, guilt and low self-esteem in relation to their HIV status.”

This stigma is an unacceptable stain on our society and we have to wipe it out.

Stigma is not just profoundly wrong. It also prevents many of those affected from accessing the testing, treatment and support that they need.

Today around two in five people are diagnosed late – after the point at which treatment should have begun, with a significant impact on their long-term prognosis.

Tackling stigma is one of the ways that we can change this.

So I am proud to support this year’s campaign. HIV Stigma is not retro, just wrong.

I urge you to join me in taking a stand and leaving this stigma where it belongs: in the past.

World AIDS Day Message from Michel Sidibé, Executive Director of UNAIDS

Michel Sidibé, Executive Director of UNAIDS, Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations

Today, we commemorate World AIDS Day—we stand in solidarity with the 78 million people who have become infected with HIV and remember the 35 million who have died from AIDS-related illnesses since the first cases of HIV were reported.

Press Release from UNAIDS

The world has committed to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030 as part of the Sustainable Development Goals. We are seeing that countries are getting on the Fast-Track—more than 18 million people are on life-saving HIV treatment and country after country is on track to virtually eliminate HIV transmission from mother to child.

We are winning against the AIDS epidemic, but we are not seeing progress everywhere. The number of new HIV infections is not declining among adults, with young women particularly at risk of becoming infected with HIV.

We know that for girls in sub-Saharan Africa, the transition to adulthood is a particularly dangerous time. Young women are facing a triple threat: a high risk of HIV infection, low rates of HIV testing and poor adherence to HIV treatment.

Coinfections of people living with HIV, such as tuberculosis (TB), cervical cancer and hepatitis C, are at risk of putting the 2020 target of fewer than 500 000 AIDS-related deaths out of reach. TB caused about a third of AIDS-related deaths in 2015, while women living with HIV are at four to five times greater risk of developing cervical cancer. Taking AIDS out of isolation remains an imperative if the world is to reach the 2020 target.

With access to treatment, people living with HIV are living longer. Investing in treatment is paying off, but people older than 50 who are living with HIV, including people who are on treatment, are at increased risk of developing age-associated noncommunicable diseases, affecting HIV disease progression.

AIDS is not over, but it can be if we tailor the response to individual needs at particular times in life. Whatever our individual situation may be, we all need access to the tools to protect us from HIV and to access antiretroviral medicines should we need them. A life-cycle approach to HIV that finds solutions for everyone at every stage of life can address the complexities of HIV. Risks and challenges change as people go through life, highlighting the need to adapt HIV prevention and treatment strategies from birth to old age.

The success we have achieved so far gives us hope for the future, but as we look ahead we must remember not to be complacent. We cannot stop now. This is the time to move forward together to ensure that all children start their lives free from HIV, that young people and adults grow up and stay free from HIV and that treatment becomes more accessible so that everyone stays AIDS-free.

UNAIDS

The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) leads and inspires the world to achieve its shared vision of zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths. UNAIDS unites the efforts of 11 UN organizations—UNHCR, UNICEF, WFP, UNDP, UNFPA, UNODC, UN Women, ILO, UNESCO, WHO and the World Bank—and works closely with global and national partners towards ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030 as part of the Sustainable Development Goals. Learn more at unaids.org and connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.

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It’s World AIDS Day and Leicester’s HIV Late Diagnosis rate is 13.8% higher than average.

Halve It Leicester

As the world marks World AIDS day, we remind Leicester city MPs, Leicester City Council and local HIV Charities who have signed up to the Halve It campaign that there is still much work to be done.  (The Halve It Campaign aims to halve the number of new late HIV diagnoses by 2020.  Click here to learn more)

Reality Check

We need a reality check, incredible medical progress has been made in the last 20 years and HIV treatment is now very effective.  HIV is a manageable health condition and we can manage it well.  However, treatment for HIV is only available if you are diagnosed.

People whose HIV infection is diagnosed late have a ten-fold increased risk of dying from AIDS related complications within the first year of diagnosis compared to those diagnosed early.  It’s estimated that someone who is diagnosed very late with HIV has a life expectancy at least 10 years shorter than someone who starts treatment earlier.

Undiagnosed HIV has an impact on wider public health. People who don’t know they are HIV positive are at greater risk of passing the virus on to others through unprotected sex as they are not on appropriate therapy.

The earlier HIV it is detected the easier it is to manage and get treated which also makes the risk of passing on the virus to others much lower.  If you are diagnosed with HIV before it has damaged your body and you are put on effective treatment, you can expect to live as long as anyone else.

Late Diagnosis in Leicester

Late HIV diagnosis in Leicester is 13.8% higher than average in England and Leicester has the 6th highest rate of late diagnosis of HIV in the country.  As a city with these statistics, we are responsible for doing everything we can to ensure these late diagnoses come down and to ensure that people know their HIV status.

The halve it pledge commits to:

  • Making HIV testing easier to access and available in a variety of settings in the NHS, HIV charities and patient groups
  • Ensuring there are a variety of ways to test for HIV, including home sampling and finger prick testing;
  • Ensuring that people diagnosed with HIV are quickly referred to the right care to improve health and prevent onward transmission
  • Working together to reduce the stigma that has been associated with HIV

We work all year round to help halve the number of people being diagnosed late, not just on World AIDS Day.  For more information on HIV Testing, please visit our website where you can find information about testing with us or other places in Leicester and Leicestershire around the UK.

want a hiv test at home? no problem!

If you prefer not to visit your GP or visit a local service like us, you can also for a FREE home sampling HIV kit or you can purchase your own self test kit.  An explanation on the differences between testing methods is available in our HIV Testing Pages.

Do you know your HIV status? – The only way to know if you have HIV or not is to get a HIV test.  You can do this for free at your doctor, free at an NHS clinic, free with charities like LASS and now you can even do a HIV test at home, at your convenience.

keithvLeicester East MP Keith Vaz said:


“I welcome the fantastic work being done by LASS to promote HIV testing and fully support the important campaign to halve the late diagnoses of the virus in Leicester, and across the world. It is vital that more and more people become aware that testing is free and simple.

Enabling greater access to information around HIV and how it is contracted, tested for and managed is critical in reducing the spread of this virus.”

Assistant city mayor Cllr Abdul Osman, executive lead for public health for Leicester said:. “HIV testing is quick free and easy. We would urge people who think that they may have contracted HIV to take a test. “It’s better to know and get treatment early. Testing and treatment remain confidential and available via the NHS”

Jenny Hand, CEO of LASS “We’re delighted to see such strong support for this campaign. At LASS we see the impact of late diagnosis of HIV. HIV isn’t a death sentence – if caught in time people can live long and healthy lives. But we need people to be tested so we can provide the appropriate treatment, care and support.”

 HIV: the facts

  • There were 103,700 people in UK were living with HIV in 2014 (Health protection agency)
  • 17% (18,100) of that figure are unaware and at risk of unknowingly passing their virus onto others
  • If diagnosed early, people living with HIV can expect a normal life expectancy
  • Once people are accessing treatment the chance of passing the virus onto others are reduced to severe minimum
  • HIV is mainly concentrated in two populations- men who have sex with men and black and African communities, but infection rates in other groups are rising
  • The vast majority of HIV infections occur through unprotected sex.

In an age where Hospitals and GP practices fail to routinely test for HIV, can you really afford not to decide to take one yourself? – Here’s why you shouldn’t be afraid of taking a HIV test.

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Ask questions to the CEO’s of Leicester NHS & Hospitals

any-questions

Healthwatch Leicestershire is the county’s patient and public champion for health and social care services.  They exist to help the residents of Leicester and Leicestershire get the best service from health and social care providers.

They do this by listening to local people about their views and experiences of using health and social care services, such as:

  • GPs and practices
  • Mental health services
  • Hospitals
  • Social care
  • Community health services
  • Carers services
  • Children and young people services

They use what people tell them to challenge and influence those who plan, run and regulate services so improvements are made for local people.

Healthwatch Leicestershire is giving you the opportunity to submit a question to be answered by health Chief Executives of Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust and University Hospitals of Leicester.  This is an opportunity for you to get a response from the people who make decisions about local health services.

You can submit questions about:

  • Leicester Royal Infirmary services
  • Glenfield Hospital services
  • Leicester General Hospital services
  • Adult Mental Health and Learning Disabilities such as; Adult Community Mental Health teams, Day Care Services, Homeless Service and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy Services.
  • Community Health Services such as; Community Physiotherapy and Occupational Therapy Teams, Falls Team, Night Nursing Service, Mental Health Services for Older People and Community healthcare non-inpatient services.
  • Families, Young People and Children Services such as; Children’s Occupational Therapy, Community Wellness Service, School Nursing, Stop Smoking Service and Tobacco Control, Adult Eating Disorders Therapy Service and Paediatric Psychology.

They will confirm receipt of your question and may need to come back to you to ask for more detail. If your question is not within the remit of the providers they will inform you of this and agree what happens next.

You may need to wait around 21 working days for a response, sometimes a little longer depending on the question and schedules of health care staff.

Once they have received the response it will be sent to you, providing they have your contact details. All responses will be posted on their website.  (They will not publish any personal identifiable information given by you.)

Send your questions to info@healthwatchleics.co.uk

If you require any further information, call them on 0116 257 4999.

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World Health Organisation Advocates for HIV Self-Testing

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The first legally approved HIV self testing kits only became available in the UK last year.

Forty percent of the people with HIV globally are unaware they are infected, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said in a statement yesterday (Tues 29th Nov) , two days ahead of World AIDS Day.

The WHO is advocating for broader access to self-testing kits to make it easier for those at risk to determine whether they are infected.

“HIV self-testing should open the door for many more people to know their HIV status and find out how to get treatment and access prevention services,” said WHO Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan.

The report cited studies which found that providing self-testing kits nearly doubles the chances of men who have sex with men getting tested.

Late Diagnosis in Leicester

Late HIV diagnosis in Leicester is 13.8% higher than the average for England.  HIV testing is a scary prospect to some and no one takes that for granted, but by taking the chance to be tested, you could be buying yourself years of life.

Do you know your HIV status? – The only way to know if you have HIV or not is to get a HIV test.  You can do this for free at your doctor, free at an NHS clinic, free with charities like LASS and now you can even do a HIV test at home, at your convenience.

For more information on HIV Testing, please visit our website where you can find information about testing with us or other places in Leicester/shire and around the UK.

You can also apply for a FREE home sampling HIV kit or you can purchase your own self test kit.  An explanation on the differences between testing methods is available in our HIV Testing Pages.

Self-testing would be particularly beneficial to populations that face a wide variety of barriers to testing centers; however, many of the financial constraints which prevent access to testing and treatment may similarly impede access to self-testing kits.

Still, the WHO noted significant improvements in HIV awareness and treatment in the past decade. In 2005, just 12 percent of those infected with HIV knew they had the AIDS virus. Last year, the number climbed to 60 percent. Additionally, 80 percent of those who know they are HIV-positive are currently receiving antiretroviral therapy (ART).

Wide-scale implementation of self-testing remains limited, but 23 countries currently have policies in place supporting it, and many other nations are developing similar policies.

You can read the full statement by the World Health Organisation here: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/2016/world-aids-day/en/

Want to know how a HIV test works? – See this video featuring Dr Christian on loose women .

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How A Red Ribbon Conquered The World

Thirty years after the HIV virus was first documented, the red ribbon is the ubiquitous symbol of support for those living with the illness. Who thought of it and how did it get so big?

In the sparse surroundings of a former classroom on a spring day in 1991 – a decade after the rise of AIDS – a group of 12 artists gathered to discuss a new project.

They were photographers, painters, film makers and costume designers, and they sat around in the shared gallery space known as PS122 in New York’s East Village.

Within an hour or so of brainstorming, they had come up with a simple idea that later became one of the most recognised symbols of the decade – the red ribbon, worn to signify support for people with HIV/Aids.

“We wanted to make something that was self-replicating,” says Patrick O’Connell, who chaired the meeting. “It’s extremely simple, like Bauhaus but half a century later. You cut the ribbon 6-7 inches, loop it around your finger and pin it on. You can do it yourself.”

The ribbon was the latest project by Visual Aids, a New York arts organisation that raises awareness of HIV/Aids.

When they sat down in the shared gallery space of PS122 in May 1991, they wanted to get people talking about the illness that was decimating their professional and social network, in the face of public indifference and private shame.

People were dying without even telling their friends why they were sick, and the artists wanted a visual expression of compassion for people living with Aids and their carers.

“Even in New York, we were very aware of how many people couldn’t talk about it, or were oblivious, or were going through it themselves but ashamed to talk about it,” says photographer Allen Frame, who was also one of the 12. “We wanted to make people feeling isolated more supported and understood.”

Their inspiration came from the yellow ribbons tied on trees to denote support for the US military fighting in the Gulf War, he says. Pink and the rainbow colours were rejected because they were too closely associated with the gay community, and this was an illness that went well beyond.

“Red was something bold and visible. It symbolised passion, a heart and love.”

The shape had no significance but was easy to make.

It took two more meetings to refine the design and then they set to work on making the ribbons themselves, distributing them around the New York art scene and dropping them off at theatres.

Initially there was a text that went with it, to explain why they were being worn, although this was later dropped because it became superfluous.

A few weeks after that first meeting, the group sent a box of 3,000 ribbons to the Minskoff Theatre on Broadway, ahead of the Tony Awards for the theatre industry. Some of them were making ribbons and watching the televised event as actor Jeremy Irons, one of the presenters, came on to the stage wearing one.

“Within three days, the media finally figured it out and it snowballed. I started being contacted by people in Hollywood,” says O’Connell.

Demand increased to such a degree that supply needed to be outsourced, and Visual Aids used a charity working with homeless women to make the ribbons. They sent out 10,000 ribbons for one Oscars ceremony, and over the coming years they made about 1.5m.

Stars like Bette Midler and Richard Gere were not only wearing them, but openly discussing why it was important. A ribbon-sporting culture developed within the acting profession.

“It became trendy and sometimes I think celebrities felt blackmailed and thought they had to show up wearing a ribbon, which wasn’t the case,” says O’Connell. “We weren’t keeping count that way.”

The ribbons first crossed the Atlantic in large numbers on Easter Monday in 1992, when more than 100,000 ribbons were distributed at an Aids benefit concert in London’s Wembley Stadium for Freddie Mercury.

They also began to proliferate in mainstream American life. Schools and churches across the US touched by the illness started to contact Visual Aids for advice on how they could explain it to children and parishioners – the answer was to hold a ribbon-making event.

“This was a way to educate people in a non-combative way,” says O’Connell, who has a ribbon on every item of clothing. Direct action was still important, he says – campaigners occupied the Stock Exchange and tried to re-enact a funeral on the White House lawn – but the ribbon was a way to broaden the conversation.

One unforeseen consequence has been the number of awareness ribbons that have been adopted since – pink for breast cancer being the most well known.

The artists purposefully never trademarked it – the point of the project was to invite more people in, says O’Connell – which meant it could appear anywhere without Visual Aids’ permission or any payments. It even turned up on a US Post Office stamp.

But he and some of the other artists behind the concept believe the proliferation and merchandising of the ribbon – ornamental ribbons selling for $19.95 in department stores and red ribbon mugs – has commercialised and trivialised their idea.

In a spirit more in tune with the one envisaged by Visual Aids, the ribbon is replicated in many different forms for memorials on World Aids Day, and its symbolism no longer needs any explanation.

In the poorest parts of the world, ribbon production has been central to efforts to raise funds and change attitudes, says Sir Nick Partridge, chief executive of the Terrence Higgins Trust in the UK.

Women’s collectives make ribbons and adorn them before selling them in their community.

“A number of people living with HIV really appreciate seeing other people wearing the red ribbon. They realise they’re not alone and recognise that the majority of people wearing them probably don’t have HIV themselves, and that sense of support and solidarity is very, very important.

“There has been some criticism, that it is only a symbol. But symbols are important, and the way in which the red ribbon was embraced by community activists, doctors and researchers is a unifying emblem in what is a very disparate epidemic.

“The brilliance of the artists was not copyrighting it. Making it freely available was a gift to the Aids community worldwide.”

Those 12 artists never worked together again as a group, but with the battle against the illness ongoing, their activism continues.

 

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Testing begins on new vaccine that could be ‘final nail in the coffin’ for HIV

Researchers hope to prove the drug can be at least 50 per cent effective Getty

Researchers hope to prove the drug can be at least 50 per cent effective Getty

The biggest ever trial of a new vaccine hailed as a potential “final nail in the coffin” of HIV has begun in South Africa.

Story via Telegraph

Researchers hope the vaccine, currently named HVTN 702, could finally lead to a cure for HIV, which directly affects 37 million worldwide and kills over 1 million each year.

In what is only the seventh full-scale human trial of an HIV vaccine, 5,400 sexually active South African men and women aged between 18 and 35 will take part in a test of the drug, which was developed by pharmaceutical companies Sanofi Pasteur and GSK.

The trial is being jointly funded by the US government’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), the US military, the South African Medical Research Council, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Anthony S Fauci, the director of NIAID, said: “If deployed alongside our current armoury of proven HIV prevention tools, a safe and effective vaccine could be the final nail in the coffin for HIV.

“Even a moderately effective vaccine would significantly decrease the burden of HIV disease over time in countries and populations with high rates of HIV infection, such as South Africa.”

The trial will test the efficacy and possible side effects of the vaccine, which is a modified version of a previous vaccine known as RV144. This was tested in 2009 in a trial of 16,400 people in Thailand and shown to be effective in 31 per cent of people.

This success, although limited, gave scientists hope they were close to finding a clinical way of preventing HIV, which can currently be treated through a lifelong drug programme but not easily prevented.

The new vaccine includes a number of modifications to the one used in the Thailand trial and has been tailored to target a strain of HIV that is common in southern Africa.

Researchers hope to prove it is at least 50 per cent effective – a significant increase on the Thai trial and, crucially, the threshold that is likely to secure a license to manufacture the drug commercially.

Dr Glenda Gray, president of the South African Medical Research Council, said: “The people of South Africa are making history by conducting and participating in the first HIV vaccine efficacy study to build on the results of the Thai trial.

“HIV has taken a devastating toll in South Africa, but now we begin a scientific exploration that could hold great promise for our country. If an HIV vaccine were found to work in South Africa, it could dramatically alter the course of the pandemic.”

More than 1,000 people in South Africa currently become infected with HIV every day.

Half of the participants in the study will be given the new vaccine while the other half are given a placebo. All recipients will receive five injections over the course of a year, along with a drug to boost the immune system’s response to the vaccine.

Researchers will closely monitor them for any side affects or signs the vaccine has not prevented them contracting HIV in the community. Anyone taking part who does become infected will be offered medical treatment and information on how to reduce the risk of them transmitting the virus.

Results of the study are expected in late 2020

READ MORE

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