By Karen Dickinson
Today is World AIDS Day, an initiative for people all over the world to unite in the fight against HIV, show their support for those living with HIV and remember people who have died. This year’s topic is HIV Stigma: Not Retro, Just Wrong, which is raising awareness of the fact that, though being diagnosed with HIV means something very different than it did 30 years ago, people still retain negative attitudes which can make living with HIV very difficult. An HIV diagnosis can effect physical and mental health, relationships, home life and work, which is why it’s vital that the stigma is challenged.
Aside from being a problem in its own right, Gender-based Violence (GBV) also has an effect on the spread of HIV. The World Health Organisation has said: “Violence against women constitutes an urgent an urgent public health problem worldwide, particularly in the context of the HIV/AIDS epidemic’, and research by UNAIDS has found that women women are 55% more likely to be HIV-positive if they have experienced intimate partner violence. The Brigstowe Project, a Bristol-based charity that works to improve the quality of life for people living with or affected by HIV, states: “HIV is a cause as well as an effect of inequality. Homelessness, domestic violence [and] poverty all increase the risk of HIV transmission. And having HIV increases the risk of homelessness, domestic violence, poverty [and] mental health issues.” Infection rates in Bristol are still rising, and in 2014 the city became an are of high-prevalence of HIV, with over 2 in every 1000 people now living with the virus.
The Brigstowe Project is for people who are affected by HIV and need help with housing, welfare benefits, isolation, difficulty coming to terms with a diagnosis, debt, immigration, and many other issues. They are holding a candlelit vigil at College Green in the centre of Bristol today, December 1st, at 5.45pm to remember those who have been lost to HIV/AIDS and to challenge the HIV stigma. Speeches start promptly at 6pm and will include one by Mayor of Bristol Marvin Rees. Check the Brigstowe Project Facebook page for more information.