We are closer than ever to ending the HIV epidemic, said a panel of experts at ‘HIV: is victory in sight?’ in the Brighton Festival.
The panel discussed two major successes that mean the transmission of HIV is greatly reduced. In Brighton and Hove people more than 90% of people diagnosed with HIV are accessing effective treatment and as a result have an undetectable viral load, meaning they cannot infect a partner. Combined with the successful development of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), this means people who are HIV negative have a far lower risk of being infected with the virus. HIV is not the death sentence it was once perceived to be, and in fact, people with the virus are now expected to have a normal life expectancy.
Panellists shared their views on how perceptions towards HIV have changed over time but warned that stigma is still wide reaching. The importance of testing and normalising testing, in order to get people on to effective treatment as early as possible, were also highlighted and following the discussion, the panel and the audience were invited to take an HIV test.
Brighton is the first city in the UK to be awarded the United Nations ‘Fast Track City’ status, which aims to end the epidemic of HIV/AIDS by 2030, and the panel were keen to highlight the significance of this status for the city. Councillor Daniel Yates, Chair of Health and Wellbeing Board, said: “I believe that the Fast Track status will ensure that we get to a point where there’s zero transmissions and zero deaths from HIV. Working in collaboration with the other 65 Fast Track cities around the globe means that we, as a city, will benefit from shared knowledge and extra resources. We can then input this into the community in a way that’s best for us, whether it’s for those living with HIV, those working with HIV or the community around those individuals.”
Prof Malcolm Reed, Dean of Brighton and Sussex Medical School (BSMS), said: “This was a fantastic opportunity to hear from the experts on the frontline who are working tirelessly to combat HIV. The event left everyone feeling re-energised and optimistic as we strive to end the epidemic over the coming decade.”
The in conversation event, which took place at the Sallis Benney Theatre on Sunday 7 May, was organised by BSMS in partnership with the Martin Fisher Foundation. Panellists included Baroness Gould of Potternewton, who chaired the event; Nicky Perry, Operational Manager at the Clinical Trials Unit BSMS; Dr Duncan Churchill, a Consultant in HIV/GUM; Sue Riley, a person living with HIV and Terrence Higgins Trust South Positive Voices Project Coordinator; Councillor Daniel Yates, Chair of Health and Wellbeing Board and Dr Adrian Brown, Chair of the Martin Fisher Foundation.
Baroness Gould of Potternewton asked each member of the panel to give a brief summary for the audience to take away. Listen to each panel member's closing statement below.