Today marks 40 years since the UK identified its first named person to die of an AIDS-related illness.
Terry Higgins sadly died on July 4th, 1982 at the age of just 37, but fortunately the incredible advances in HIV treatment over the last few decades have meant that it is now possible for someone to live a long and healthy life with the once virus considered deadly.
In the UK today, 97% of those diagnosed and treated are virally suppressed and unable to transmit HIV.
Still, research from the Terrence Higgins Trust — a charity set up in Terry’s memory by friends and his partner to raise awareness and prevent the spread of the virus — suggests that public perceptions of HIV still vary from is surrounded by a great stigma.
Data from a YouGov poll of more than 2,000 Brits found that just 30% of people would be comfortable meeting someone with HIV, while just 37% of people would be comfortable kissing someone who has the virus .
Alex Sparrowhawk, from Manchester, was diagnosed with HIV in 2009 and worries people still have outdated views from the 1980s when it comes to the disease.
“I’m a happy, confident person living with HIV and very open about my status,” he told Metro.co.uk.
“But it’s not always easy when there’s still so much stigma in the world and standing firm against it.
“There’s no reason not to kiss me or go out with me other than because I have a boyfriend. I also know that I will not transmit HIV through sex with him because I am on the treatment that suppresses the virus in my blood to undetectable levels.
“We need more people today than we did in the 1980s to understand the realities of HIV.
“But we also need that to influence their actions and not value people living with HIV less.
“We’re kissable and dateable — and we shouldn’t be treated any differently than anyone else on dates, on dating apps, or anywhere else.”
Likewise, only 21% of people say they would be comfortable having sex with someone living with HIV who is receiving effective treatment.
The Terrence Higgins Trust fears reminiscences of the government’s 1987 AIDS awareness ad – with actor John Hurt saying ‘It’s a deadly disease with no known cure’ while gravestones fall in the background – despite their accuracy at that time still affect perception.
What is HIV?
According to the NHS, HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) damages the cells in your immune system, weakening your ability to fight everyday infections.
AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) is the name used to describe a range of potentially life-threatening infections and diseases that occur when your immune system has been severely damaged by HIV.
While AIDS cannot be transmitted from one person to another, the HIV virus can.
HIV is normally transmitted through an infected person’s body fluids and does not survive long outside the body. The most common way of contracting the infection in the UK is through sex without a condom, but it can also be spread through injecting, breastfeeding or during pregnancy.
Antiretroviral drugs are used to treat HIV immediately and stop the development of AIDS. If you have HIV, have been on effective treatment, and your viral load has been undetectable for six months or more, it means you cannot transmit the virus through sex. This is called undetectable = non-transferrable (U = U).
Medications called pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) can be taken to prevent or reduce transmission of HIV.
Almost half of those surveyed (48%) remember the gravestone advertisement, three quarters of those aged 45 to 54 (76%) and 70% of those over 55.
Additionally, only 38% of people know that those living with HIV and receiving effective treatment cannot pass the virus on to their partners, with older people far less likely to believe it.
The charity’s chief executive, Ian Green, said: “The adverts end with the words ‘Don’t die of ignorance’, but now we are fighting a different kind of ignorance – an ignorance of all the incredible progress that has been made.
“The previously life-saving information in this ad is now completely out of date.
“We are very proud of Terry Higgins and all that we have accomplished on his behalf, but the best way to celebrate 40 years since his untimely passing is to involve as many people as possible in all the progress that has been made since.” achieved – including this someone living with HIV and being treated effectively cannot pass the virus on to their partners.’
However, there is hope for the future. Only 7% of 18-24 year olds are aware of the Tombstone advertisement, and almost half of the same age group (47%) know that those who are being effectively treated for HIV cannot pass it on.
The UK government is now aiming to end new HIV infections by 2030, supported by more than £23 million in funding.
READ MORE: For the first time in ten years, more straight people are becoming infected with HIV than gay men
READ MORE: Prince Harry says each and every one of us has a ‘duty’ to get an HIV test
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https://metro.co.uk/2022/07/04/only-37-of-people-would-feel-comfortable-kissing-someone-with-hiv-16934476/ Only 37% of people would be comfortable kissing someone with HIV