The theme of this year’s Fast-Track Cities conference, hosted in Amsterdam, was Integration and Inclusion for Impact, focusing on reflecting the diversity and variety of innovative approaches to ending new HIV transmissions and supporting people living with HIV, hepatitis and tuberculosis.
Waverley Care attended the conference alongside colleagues at NHS Tayside, who have been leading on Fast-Track Cities work in Dundee and Perth. It was fantastic to have significant representation from Scotland, and we will take these key learnings back to colleagues across the country.
Graeme Cockburn, Health Promotion Officer at NHS Tayside
I think the most reassuring thing I took away from the conference was that, even on a world stage, we are all facing the exact same challenges (around stigma in healthcare settings, messaging and language (U=U), and ensuring patients are at the core of their care) and as such we are in a perfect position to work together to solve them.
Meeting other Fast-Track Celtic nations
We also had the opportunity to meet with colleagues from Fast-Track Cymru and Fast-Track Ireland to discuss our priorities and shared challenges as Fast-Track Celtic nations. Hearing the brilliant work ongoing in both nations, such as the expansion of Fast-Track Cymru across the country and their successes in access to testing, as well as research to establish evidence-based and need for cities in Ireland, was hugely motivating.
PrEP awareness in Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic Groups
The sessions across the three days highlighted crucial learnings from across the globe. A session of particular interest and relevance was The Use of a Community Panel to Design PrEP Awareness Campaigns that Engage Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic Groups hosted by BHA for Equality. The panel, made up of people from African backgrounds living in Manchester, allowed the community to ask questions, express concerns and allow for cross-cultural discussion about PrEP. Sessions were advertised as community health events, rather than sexual health, to ensure that stigma did not put anyone off from attending. As we are developing and working with our Fast-Track Cities Scotland community panel made up of people living with HIV, this session was incredibly useful and inspiring for our work, highlighting important considerations.
HIV stigma in healthcare settings
New research was presented by Dr. Elena Vaughan from the University of Galway on HIV stigma within healthcare settings. The study found that the biggest indicator of healthcare stigma is staff’s knowledge of U=U; staff with a lower understanding of what U=U means were more likely to perpetuate stigma or stigmatising beliefs associated with HIV. This highlights the importance of ensuring healthcare staff have up-to-date knowledge of HIV, and that stigma is addressed and eradicated. You can read the full research paper here.
Fast-Track Cities Scotland: A National Consortium Approach
Waverley Care also had the opportunity to present our e-poster Fast-Track Cities Scotland: A National Consortium Approach. The e-poster provides an overview of our national approach to Fast-Track cities in Scotland, as well as lessons learned and recommendations for other Fast-Track Nations. We discussed examples of good practice in Scotland such as Fast-Track Cities Aberdeen & Grampian’s e-learning resource on tackling HIV stigma and a community event held in Glasgow earlier this year with people living with HIV. The full e-poster is available to view here.
It is always incredibly motivating to hear the work of other Fast-Track Cities across the globe and allows for some important reflections. First, it is vital that the work of Fast-Track Cities Scotland is community-led, putting the voices of people living with HIV at the forefront and allowing them to set the agenda. We will continue to do this through our brilliant Community Panel.
We also must ensure that the messaging of U=U is widespread and embedded in service delivery across Scotland. A key conclusion from Dr. Elena Vaughan’s study is that spreading the message of U=U must be a top-down approach, and considerations must be made as to how this information will be disseminated across NHS boards.
The conference also highlighted what requires more development in Scotland; other cities around the world have city leaders as spokespeople for Fast-Track Cities, and we need to ensure we bring local authorities and city leaders with us in the journey to zero new transmissions. Further, secure funding is a necessity for any new initiatives and projects.
Looking to the future, we must continue to develop the inspiring work of each Fast-Track City in Scotland. Whilst each city is at a different stage in their development as a Fast-Track City, Waverley Care will continue to support them in their work in ending new HIV transmissions and stigma. We look forward to Fast-Track Cities 2024!