To mark World AIDS Day on December 1st, the Sexual Health Centre has launched ‘End HIV Stigma’ a collaborative community project in partnership with ACT UP and Positive Cork. At the centre of this project is a new mural on Grattan Street, shining a light on the stigma attached to HIV (human immunodeficiency virus). On Wednesday at 12:30, a panel discussion will be hosted to officially launch the project, with free entry to the public at the Firkin Crane and via livestream.
Elinor O’Donovan from the Sexual Health Centre led the project alongside a number of people living with HIV, who advised on the planning and design of the mural.
“Medical advances have ensured that people in Ireland can live full, healthy lives with HIV. So, in the last 40 years, how we treat HIV has significantly improved but how we treat people living with HIV has not,” noted Ms O’Donovan.
“I’m hoping that this mural brings the harmful stigma faced by people living with HIV, into public conversation, and highlights that many HIV-positive people are living positive lives.”
It is estimated that over 7,000 people in Ireland are living with HIV today. About 15% of that number don’t know that they have HIV as they have never been tested or have contracted HIV since their last test. However, a study published by the Sexual Health Centre has shown that misinformation within the Irish population regarding HIV is still prevalent. Many people still believe that HIV can be transmitted through saliva, kissing or sharing utensils. This misinformation reinforces existing stigma and has a strong negative impact on people living with HIV and their families.
Ms O Donovan noted that people living with HIV, who take treatment as prescribed, can not sexually transmit the virus to a HIV-negative partner.
“Effective treatment can reduce the quantity of HIV in someone’s system so that it is undetectable in standard blood tests, and can not be sexually transmitted. This is why we say Undetectable = Untransmittable or #UequalsU. It’s a crucial message for ending HIV-related stigma.”
This initiative is funded by HSE Arts + Health. Free registration for the panel discussion, ‘End HIV Stigma: A Cork Reflection’, is available at sexualhealthcentre.com/events
On Saturday 4th of December, the Sexual Health Centre will host a free 5K fun run nationwide to highlight HIV testing services, and address HIV stigma. Free registration is available at sexualhealthcentre.com/events
The Sexual Health Centre runs a free rapid HIV testing service for key populations as well as a free HIV counselling and support programme.