Local SNP MSP Tom Arthur has welcomed confirmation from First Minister Nicola Sturgeon that she would support a public health campaign to end HIV stigma.

Speaking during First Minister’s Questions last week, she highlighted that more action needs to be taken to end HIV stigma and commended former Welsh rugby captain Gareth Thomas on his brave and emotional revelation this week that he is living with HIV. Thomas has said he hopes to educate and empower others in the same position.

Mr Arthur, who is Co-Convener of the Cross-Party Group on Sexual Health and Blood Borne Viruses at the Scottish Parliament, commented:

“I was very glad to see the wave of support in the chamber for tackling the stigma that still surrounds HIV.

“There is significant evidence that suggests that stigma undermines prevention efforts, leads to increased risk, non-disclosure, and poorer adherence to treatment. This can lead to increases in late diagnosis which can negatively impact on a person’s quality of life and life expectancy.

“It is a scientific fact that a person with an undetectable HIV viral load can’t transmit the virus to their sexual partners, as explained by the U=U campaign (Undetectable = Untransmittable), which shatters long-standing myths and misconceptions about HIV and people living with HIV.

“Fear of stigma and discrimination is a leading contributor to poor health outcomes for people living with or affected by HIV, making it all the more important to make it clear that HIV stigma has no place in our society.”

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said:

“I do agree that there is a lot more to be done to tackle stigma here. We’ve all got a part to play in this and I would say very bluntly that the media have a part to play in making sure that they are not disseminating the myths and false impressions of HIV that we often read.

“I think there is an argument for a campaign, particularly given the successful introduction of PrEP, and we will continue to consider what work we can do to ensure that we are consigning this horrible stigma that wrecks peoples’ lives to the dustbin of history and am sure that this is something all of us will come together to do.”

Further information on U=U https://www.hiv.scot/pages/faqs/category/uu

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