HIV is far from the death sentence that it was, says sexual health expert

30 November 2017

"Scotland is leading the way with the introduction of PrEP (HIV drugs taken to prevent HIV acquisition) with other countries now looking to us as an example of best practice,” says sexual health expert Professor Claudia Estcourt.

“What we know is that more people are having unsafe sex, with numbers in gonorrhoea, chlamydia, syphilis and other sexually transmitted diseases on the rise. People are still putting themselves at risk. However, the number of people testing positive for HIV/AIDS in Scotland is on a downward trajectory, which is not the case for numbers in other parts of the world.”

"HIV is far from the death sentence that it was. Patients can lead healthy lives and their life expectancy is the same as those living without the condition as long as they are diagnosed early in the infection and access good medical care,” says Professor Estcourt, who is co-leading the national evaluation of the PrEP roll-out.  

The introduction of PrEP in July 2017 by the Scottish Medicines Consortium (SMC) was described as a ‘game changer’ as it dramatically reduces the chances of being infected with HIV. It has been made available on the NHS in Scotland as part of routine sexual health services, while in England, it is only available to some patients as part of a large-scale trial.

“Countries such as Australia and New Zealand are looking to Scotland as an example of best practice,” she added.

Professor Estcourt was speaking ahead of World AIDS Day on Friday, December 1, to raise awareness of the annual event and to end the stigma about getting testing and looking after your sexual health.  

“We know that young people are at the peak age of STI acquisition, having had a number of relationships over a period of time. Not everyone uses a condom one hundred per cent – we’re all human. The important message is: every time you have a change of sexual partner, or a new sexual partner, or at least once year, if you are sexually active, get tested, and nowadays that could not be easier.”

A number of events are taking place on campus to highlight World AIDS Day including free confidential HIV & Hep C testing by the Waverly Care in the Caledonian Clinic at the ARC from 10am to 1pm. The Terrence Higgins Trust stall is at Campus Life from 10 to 2pm. The University’s Centre for Living space will be on hand from 10-2pm to offer advice and give free material.

The University’s School of Health and Life Sciences is among the top 20 universities in the UK for health research in HIV, sexual health, drug use and misuse, in the latest Research Excellence Framework.