Friday, 6 April 2018

The U=U campaign vs HIV stigma - Australia (video)

Ed Moreno today, diagnosed with HIV in 1990. He appears in the video below
Ed Moreno at diagnosis
The U=U (Undetectable=Transmittable) campaign is about spreading the current facts about HIV and challenging the entrenched stigma that still exist against HIV in Australia, despite huge advances in treatment and life expectancy over the decades. People still genuinely believe that you can catch HIV by using the same cutlery as the person, or from a cough or a sneeze, even a kiss. 

This just isn't the case, and actually never was anyway. But today with treatment HIV+ people become "undetectable" (have a viral load so low as to not be detectable by current tests). This means, as a scientifically proven fact, that you can't pass it on even during unsafe sex. Study after study has shown this. 90% of HIV positive people in Australia are undetectable.

Now with the advent of PrEP (the HIV drug Truvada taken once a day by an HIV negative person) which is 99% effective in stopping an HIV infection if it occurs. It has been put on the PBS. This is a huge move forward on it's own, giving the HIV negative person the power and responsibility for their own sexual health. No longer can one blame someone else for getting HIV. Indeed the question by HIV negative people "Are you clean?" can now be countered with "Are you on PrEP?"

Yesterday I was getting some run of the mill meds from the local chemist (I still go to the Albion St pharmacy for the HIV pills as I worry about stigma at the local chemist) and whilst waiting sat down next to an old lady, with a walking frame and all who obviously knew the chemist well. I wondered to myself how would she react if she found out I was HIV+? 

Ironically it's not the virus that is our greatest enemy today. It's the stigma of having it.

It is now shown that with effective and sustained treatment, the virus cannot be detected by standard blood tests or transmitted during sex.

 More than 26,000 Australians were living with HIV in 2016, according to the Kirby Institute at the University of New South Wales.

 Of them, more than 90 per cent had an undetectable viral load. "

A person living with HIV like myself, takes my medication every day," said Nic Holas from The Institute of Many.

 "That one pill stops HIV in its tracks, it stops the virus replicating."

 he organisation is behind a new push to end HIV stigma.

 The U=U campaign — which stands for "undetectable equals untransmittable" — involves Mr Moreno and four others sharing their HIV experiences.

 Mr Moreno is now 53 and calls Melbourne home. He personally knows the impact of outdated views on HIV.

 "I had an experience not too long ago of someone wanting to keep my cutlery and cups separate," he said.

The gap between science and perception extends to those with the virus, Mr Holas added.

 "We've been living under a very dark cloud of HIV for many decades," he said.

 "HIV positive people hear it [the U=U message] and [say], 'Oh, but what if?'"

 Mr Holas stressed the U=U campaign was grounded in strong scientific research.

 "Some of the greatest scientific minds in the field, at an international level, have endorsed the U=U statement," Mr Holas said.

 "There is effectively zero risk of transmission, so don't worry about it." ABC

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