THE CHIEF of a leading sexual health charity has called on council leaders of five Scots cities to commit to ending the HIV epidemic.
Nathan Sparling, chief executive of HIV Scotland, has made the appeal on the eve of the first ever global conference of Fast-Track Cities – a gathering of more than 270 cities across the globe pledging to tackle HIV.
Sparling hopes that Dundee, Edinburgh, Stirling, Perth and Inverness will follow their lead and make Scotland the world’s first ‘Fast-Track country’ and bring down the level of HIV infections to zero.
Speaking ahead of tomorrow’s international conference in London, Sparling said: “This conference is a great opportunity to share the success of Scotland’s cities meeting the 90-90-90 targets and is also an important opportunity to share learning from the outbreak among people who inject drugs and learn from other cities in order to improve and strengthen our response to HIV.
“Fast-Track Cities has reinvigorated the HIV response, recognising the hard work that is already happening, in both Glasgow and Aberdeen. It has brought together passionate activists, the third sector, healthcare workers, and decision makers to ensure that the extra work that is needed to get to zero is done.
“We know that around 500 people living with HIV in Scotland are undiagnosed. Stigma and the fear of a HIV diagnosis is the hangover of the past, and presents the biggest barrier to testing and treatment. We know that when someone is diagnosed with HIV, and they start treatment, they can become undetectable so not only are they able to live a long and healthy life, but they can’t pass HIV on to their sexual partners.
“As well as the 90-90-90 targets, reducing HIV-related stigma to zero is a key tenet of the Fast Track Cities initiative, updating the public consciousness about HIV and the modern realities is vital, and a public campaign could be the answer in addition to improved education in Scotland’s schools.
“The cross-sector partnership that Fast-Track Cities emboldens gives us the perfect opportunity to look at our assets, investigate the opportunities and look to fill in any gaps. We should be ready and willing to learn from other cities whilst sharing our assets with the world, to play our part on the global stage on the way to zero.
“In addition to the material benefits of the Fast Track Cities initiative – the co-operation, the internationalism, and the bringing together of a diverse range of stakeholders – it also gives a sense of renewed political leadership on the issue of HIV. Fast-Track Cities is about ambition, one that I believe Scotland has and should harness to get to zero.”