Fighting against the stigma of HIV

30 November 2016

Fighting against the stigma of HIV

"The time has come as a society and a culture where we have to accept the fact HIV is here to stay." This is the view of Glasgow Caledonian University's (GCU) Professor Paul Flowers, who is working to address HIV-related stigma and discrimination.

GCU is supporting World AIDS Day (December 1) by highlighting the need for HIV testing as well as screening for other sexually transmitted infections. Professor Flowers is urging those who are high risk, such as men who have sex with men, or those having unprotected sex, to repeat testing to control transmission.

Professor of Public Health Psychology, Paul Flowers is one of a number of academics working within GCU’s School of Health and Life Sciences whose research is focused on improving sexual health.

Professor Flowers said: "To fight the stigma of HIV, we have to understand that HIV is a chronic manageable disease. Treatment is available and people should be thinking of regularly getting tested for HIV as well as screened for other sexually transmitted infections.

"The time has come as a society and a culture where we have to accept the fact that HIV is here to stay. We need to do our best to control HIV and that means fighting the stigma, getting tested, getting treatment, and being able to have a conversation about HIV."

Research at the University has included the first UK study analysis of the acceptability of self-testing in HIV. An international team of researchers, co-led by GCU and the MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit at the University of Glasgow, found that self-testing represented a major opportunity to reduce barriers to HIV testing and enhance prevention and access to care.

Earlier in the year, in partnership with colleagues at the University of Glasgow, GCU researchers, also published the first mixed-methods study examining awareness and acceptability of a preventative drug for HIV negative people which reduces HIV transmission. Professor Flowers worked alongside GCU's Dr Jamie Frankis and Dr Ingrid Young and Dr Lisa McDaid from the MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit at the University of Glasgow on the use of the antiretroviral medication, Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP).

New research funded by NIHR, in collaboration with University and NHS institutions across the UK and Europe will look at how we could reduce the number of people who are HIV positive but have never tested and so are unaware of their health risks and possibilities for transmission. A large study will look at how reaching more sex partners of people with STIs and HIV could play a part in reducing undiagnosed HIV.

The University's research into HIV testing has led to impacts on health policy (WHO and NICE guidelines) and services relating to HIV testing among vulnerable populations across Europe, and particularly, Scotland. These policies have contributed to significant increases in HIV testing, and a reduction in undiagnosed HIV infection, HIV-related ill health and AIDS deaths. For people living with HIV, this has enabled improved quality of life and better health and contributions to society.

GCU also works with the National AIDS Trust (NAT), which is driving a global campaign to tackle HIV-related stigma in the UK.