Alliance representatives have marked World AIDS Day, saying while progress has been made in terms of health outcomes for HIV over the last 40 years, stigma still comes with a positive diagnosis.
Party Health spokesperson Paula Bradshaw MLA said the day is an opportunity to reflect on how isolating a diagnosis can be and how misconceptions about the virus can still cause damage to those who live with HIV.
“Negative attitudes can have serious consequences and make it less likely those with the condition will seek diagnosis. The stigma around HIV and AIDS can also prevent people from speaking about it, and that can come with real life consequences for the health and wellbeing of those who are positive,” she said.
“It is incumbent on all of us to educate ourselves about the illness, combat misinformation and offer our support to those who live with the virus. I welcome the developments in effective drug treatments enabling most people to live a long and healthy life, whilst recognising there is still work to do to find a cure.
“I commend all those who continue to raise awareness about the condition, and hope with time the stigma associated with HIV and AIDS will become a thing of the past.”
Meanwhile, Alliance Belfast City Councillor Kate Nicholl has successfully secured the lighting up of City Hall to mark the occasion.
“I’m delighted City Hall will light up red tonight, sending a clear message to everyone affected by HIV that we support them,” said the Balmoral Councillor.
“Everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and respect, but for those living with HIV and AIDS, the amount of misinformation in the public domain can often feed damaging views, leading to a lonely life for those affected – made worse in 2020 by the Covid-19 pandemic – meaning the messages on the importance of testing, the progress around treatment and prevention can be lost.
“We all need to play our part in ending the stigma and challenging perceptions of this condition.”