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…
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…
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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
PEP or PEPSE
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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:
If you'd like to speak to us about your fundraising ideas, please email Holly and Matt at email@example.com or call 0131 556 9710.
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.