UK politicians and HIV activists come together on World AIDS Day
This World Aids Day, British politicians and HIV activists from around the world held a panel discussion at the UK government offices to explore HIV testing and treatment access challenges for marginalised groups, including men who have sex with men, sex workers, people who inject drugs and transgender people.
Three young people, Alexa Dominich, Chan Aye San, and Cristian Sandulescu, addressed UK politicians and other activists about how they had been personally affected by HIV. They all emphasised HIV stigma and discrimination as one of the largest barriers to accessing treatment and other services. Alexa Dominich, a transgender woman from Indonesia working for the Fokus Muda Network, said “marginalised groups face stigma, discrimination and legal barriers when trying to access HIV testing and treatment.” The panel was in agreement that discriminatory laws in many countries, such as criminalising homosexuality, continue to obstruct key populations from accessing HIV services and represent a huge barrier to ending AIDS.
Members of parliament and HIV activists emphasised the need to tailor local responses to key populations and marginalised groups to ensure we are reaching those most at-risk. Globally, gay and bisexual men are 19 times more likely to acquire HIV than the general population and transgender women are 49 times more likely to be living with HIV than other adults of reproductive age. The panel also agreed that improving access to treatment for marginalised groups should be a key priority, and that combatting HIV stigma and discrimination is crucial to enable people to come forward for treatment.
Cristian Sandulescu highlighted the need to better empower young people to become involved in the response to the epidemic, recognising their energy and courage. AVERT’s #StandUpToHIV campaign aims to empower young people to challenge HIV stigma, get tested, and take control of their health. Currently, 46% of people living with HIV do not know their status and stigma is a significant barrier that stops people testing and ultimately accessing treatment.
The World AIDS Day event was attended by AVERT’s Communications & Campaigns Intern