Liberate have found that more needs to be done to combat the stigma of living as HIV positive in the Islands. More than thirty years on from the first cases of HIV in the Channel Islands, misinformation, myths and prejudice persist, making it difficult for islanders living with HIV to be open with those closest to them. Only 58% of islanders living with HIV had told a family member of their condition.
One year ago on World AIDS Day (1 December) Liberate asked Channel Islanders to assist in a research project to provide the charity with information about the nature of the work that needs to be done in the Islands to provide more support for those living with HIV. As part of their research, Liberate also visited Terrence Higgins Trust, the National AIDS Trust and StopAIDS, and Liberate interviewed The Orchard Clinic (Guernsey), the States of Guernsey’s Health Educator, Brook Jersey, YouMatter and the GUM clinic in Jersey.
As a result of the research, Liberate have produced a report with 13 recommendations for the Third Sector (government and charities). A copy of Liberate’s report can be downloaded here.
Vic Tanner Davy, CEO Liberate, said: “As a charity, the priority for us is clear. We need to do more to reduce stigma in the Islands and that starts with education – whether that is in the form of new government information campaigns, or workshops that give people the facts about HIV, or making it part of sex education lessons in schools. When someone comes out as living with HIV it should result in support for that person; the fear remains that it will result in rejection by friends, family and colleagues.”
Additional work that the report highlights is the need to combat the spread of HIV by encouraging people to get tested and know their status, and by making PrEP (a drug that can stop HIV infections from being passed on) available on the health service in both Bailiwicks.
Liberate have the support of Terrence Higgins Trust for their work, which will commence in 2020. Dominic Edwardes, Executive Director of Communications at Terrence Higgins Trust, said: “We fully support work in the Channel Islands to update people’s knowledge of HIV. We’ve made huge medical progress in the fight against HIV that means someone diagnosed early and accessing treatment has the same life expectancy as anyone else. But public perceptions haven’t kept up with the pace and stigma and discrimination remain key issues for people living with HIV. We’re keen to work with Liberate to help shape the Channel Island’s HIV response, including through stigma training and increasing access to HIV testing.”