Scotland's World AIDS Day

Ahead of World AIDS Day on 1 December, we’re teaming up with our parent charity, Waverley Care, to bang the drum for HIV prevention, to challenge stigma and to highlight our work across Scotland.

For over 30 years, Waverley Care has been the leading charity in Scotland’s fight against HIV. This World AIDS Day, we need your support to keep going…

Think you know HIV?

One of the best ways you can support us this World AIDS Day is to educate yourself about HIV in Scotland to help us shift the conversation away from dated stereotypes.

You might think that World AIDS Day in Scotland is one for the history books, but it’s not.

We’ve put together the short Q&A below to give you the facts about HIV, and why we’re still talking about World AIDS Day in 2020.

Help us by reading and sharing this information with your friends, families and colleagues…

What is HIV, and what does it have to do with AIDS?

HIV (or Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is a virus that infects our white blood cells, making it harder for the body to fight off everyday infections.

Over a long time (often many years) HIV will gradually weaken a person’s immune system to the point where it can’t fight off infections that a healthy immune system would normally handle.

At this point HIV becomes known as AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome). Today in Scotland, very few people develop AIDS because of effective testing and treatment.

What progress has Scotland made?

In a word, lots.

We've now got really effective treatments that help people to manage their HIV and live long, healthy lives.

At the same time, advances in prevention are helping to reduce the number of people who are getting HIV.

We believe that with the right support, Scotland can achieve zero new HIV infections by 2030.

If we're doing so well, why should I care about World AIDS Day?

Because we're not there yet.

Despite all of the progress, gay, bisexual and all men who have sex with men continue to be more affected by HIV than other groups in society.

Our community accounts for almost half of all people living with HIV in Scotland.

The single biggest barrier to achieving zero new infections in Scotland is stigma.

Attitudes to HIV in Scotland today continue to be influenced by the devastating impact of HIV in the 1980s and early '90s, when many men lost their lives to the condition. 

Despite improvements in treatment, we still meet people who think HIV is a death sentence, or that it can be passed on by kissing, neither of which are true.

We know that stigma not only affects people living with HIV, leaving them isolated from support, but also puts people off getting tested, helping to fuel the spread of HIV.

It doesn’t have to be this way - the science is there and it is time for society to catch up…

So, what are the facts about HIV?

By learning the facts about HIV, we can all play a role in helping to stop new infections, and to support people living with the condition.

How is HIV passed on?

In Scotland, HIV is mainly passed on during unprotected sex (e.g. without condoms), or by sharing injecting equipment.

There's lots of information in our Good Sex Guide and STI sections about how to get the most from your sex life while minimising the risks.

What are the symptoms?

Early symptoms of HIV can be mild and easy to miss.

In the weeks following infection, most people will get a flu-like illness that can include fever, sore throat, aches and pains.

After that, it can take many years for other symptoms to develop, by which point a person can become very ill and potentially be diagnosed with AIDS.

What about testing?

Because the symptoms are so mild, the only way to know if you have HIV for certain is to get tested.

Getting an HIV test is quick, easy and confidential, with some tests giving you results in minutes. 

We've got lots of information about the different testing options, and what you can expect, here.

Can HIV be cured?

There is not a cure for HIV, so a person living with HIV will have it for the rest of their lives.

However, effective treatments are available that control the virus, stop it spreading and allow people to live long and healthy lives.

The earlier that someone is diagnosed with HIV and starts treatment, the better in terms of their health.

How do you prevent HIV?

In Scotland, HIV is most commonly passed on through unprotected sex.

Depending on your circumstances there are lots of ways you can reduce the risk of either getting or passing on HIV.

Condoms and Lube

Used correctly, the trusty combo of condoms and lubricant remains one of the best ways to prevent the spread of HIV. They can also protect you from a whole range of other STIs.

We’ve got lots of information about condoms here.


PrEP is a pill that stops the person taking it from getting HIV.

Since 2018, PrEP has been available to men at the greatest risk of HIV through NHS Scotland.

Some men also choose to buy PrEP online and there are specific websites dedicated to helping people to do this as safely as possible.

Check out our PrEP page for lots of information about PrEP, how it works and how you can access it.


If you’ve had sex and think you may have been exposed to HIV, you can access treatment known as PEP or PEPSE (Post-Exposure Prophylaxis).

PEPSE is a four-week course of tablets, and can be accessed at most sexual health clinics and in hospitals (usually in the A&E department).

The sooner you start the course after you think you may have been at risk of HIV, the better. Ideally, this should be within the first 24 hours, though PEP may be offered up to 72 hours after exposure.

You can find out more here.

U=U (Undetectable=Untransmittable)

SX is proud to support the internationally-backed Undetectable=Untransmittable Consensus Statement – a powerful message to challenge stigma and reduce new infections.

Undetectable=Untransmittable, or U=U for short is a simple message – a person living with HIV, who is taking treatment and maintaining an undetectable viral load, cannot pass on HIV through sex.

Find out the full story here.

Clean injecting equipment

If you are living with HIV or worried about HIV transmission through injecting, you can prevent the spread of HIV by always using clean injecting equipment and, never sharing injecting equipment.

We've got lots of useful information about drug use, chemsex and sex here.

Support Waverley Care (and SX...)

The work that Waverley Care and SX do across Scotland is only possible with your support.

Help us to continue being there for people living with or at risk of HIV, and to work towards a Scotland where new HIV infections are a thing of the past.

Make a Donation

Donating to Waverley Care regularly spreads your donation over the year and allows you to choose the date that you make payment. You can donate monthly, quarterly, half yearly, or annually by Direct Debit.

If you’d like to make a regular donation, you can:

  • Donate online by using a debit or credit card and selecting the regular giving option through the Charities Aid Foundation. It’s quick, easy and secure.
  • Donate by post by completing our Direct Debit form and returning it to: Waverley Care, 3 Mansfield Place, Edinburgh EH3 6NB.
  • Donate by phone by calling Matt or Holly at Waverley Care on 0131 556 9710.

You can also make one-off donations using the above methods.

Remember to Gift Aid! For every £1 you give, Waverley Care can get an extra 25p from HM Revenue & Customs at no cost to you. If you are a taxpayer and qualify, remember to click the box to gift aid through the Charities Aid Foundation or complete the Gift Aid section of our Direct Debit form when you return it by post.


Your fundraising is more important than ever. Here are our favourite ideas of how you can support Waverley Care and SX right now:

  • Take on a red run...  walk, swim or climb on World AIDS Day! Choose your challenge, dig out your red lycra and get training. Whether it's a 5k around your local park or indoor stair climb, create a fundraising page on Facebook or Virgin Money Giving and ask friends and family to sponsor you.
  • Host a virtual birthday - Missing your birthday celebrations? Why not host a virtual birthday and ask for donations to Waverley Care instead of gifts and cards. Get started on Facebook or Virgin Money Giving
  • Hold a virtual bucket shake - Bucket shaking has always been a huge part of our fundraising, from the bright lights of theatre to the cold and breezy street collections. We've missed out on hundreds of shows this year and seen a huge loss of donations. However, this isn't going to stop us fundraising and you can shake a virtual bucket instead! Find out more about Virtual Bucket Shakes

Any questions?

If you'd like to speak to us about your fundraising ideas, please email Holly and Matt at or call 0131 556 9710.

Join us at an Event

On an around World AIDS Day, we’re planning a number of online events alongside Waverley Care to raise awareness of different aspects of HIV in Scotland.

Check out what’s on, and sign up to events here.