Scotland's World AIDS Day
For over 30 years, Waverley Care has been the leading charity in Scotland’s fight against HIV. This World AIDS Day, we need your support to keep going…
You might think that World AIDS Day in Scotland is one for the history books, but it’s not.
This global campaign, marked every year on 1 December, offers us the opportunity to keep alive the memory of loved ones lost, while shining a light on Waverley Care's work and the progress Scotland has made as we enter a defining decade for HIV.
In a word, lots.
Today in Scotland, effective treatments are allowing people to control their HIV and live long, healthy lives, while advances in prevention, including PrEP and U=U offer the tantalising prospect that we can achieve zero new HIV infections by 2030.
Scotland has also developed a national HIV self-test service, in partnership between Waverley Care and HIV Scotland. HIV self-tests are free, quick, and easy with results in just 15 minutes. Find out more about hivtest.scot here.
Because we're not there yet - the single biggest barrier to achieving zero new infections in Scotland is stigma.
The devastating impact of HIV in the ‘80s and the long shadow of the ‘tombstone’ public health adverts continue to influence how people think about the condition to this day.
We still meet people who think HIV is a death sentence, or that it can be passed on by kissing, neither of which are true.
It doesn’t have to be this way - the science is there and it is time for society to catch up…
Every day at Waverley Care, we see the damage that stigma and discrimination have on the health of people living with HIV, leaving them isolated from support.
That’s why our frontline staff are there to support people in whatever ways they need - from offering moral support at appointments and helping with housing and benefit forms, to being there for a simple catch up over coffee.
We also see how fear stops people from getting tested - fueling the spread of HIV - so we’re working in communities across the country, talking to people about HIV, encouraging them to think about testing and helping them to make choices that improve their health.
OK, so how can I help?
Our work is only possible with your support. By making a regular or one-off donation, you can help us to continue being there for people living with HIV, and to work towards a Scotland where new HIV infections are a thing of the past.
You can also help us by raising awareness. The best way for us to shift the conversation away from '80s stereotypes of HIV is to educate people about how HIV has changed.
Find out more below about HIV testing, treatment and prevention below, and share that information with your friends, families and colleagues. You can also join us at a series of online events where we'll be hearing from people on the frontline of Scotland's HIV response.
Learn the facts
Think you know about HIV in Scotland in 2020? Read on to find out...
We've pulled together some of the key facts you need to know, and provided links for those who want to find out more.
What is HIV?
HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus.
It is a virus that infects our white blood cells, making it harder for the body to fight off everyday infections.
How is HIV passed on?
In Scotland, the most common ways for HIV to be passed from one person to another are:
- during unprotected sex (sex without condoms)
- through shared injecting equipment
HIV is NOT passed on through:
- Kissing or hugging
- Being bitten
- Sharing towels, blankets, mugs or cutlery
- Using the same bathroom
- CPR or mouth-to-mouth resucitation
What are the symptoms?
Early symptoms of HIV can be mild and easy to miss.
In the weeks following infection, most people will get a brief, flu-like illness that can include fever, sore throat, aches and pains.
After that, it can take many years for other symptoms to develop.
If left untreated, the body's immune system can become very weak, meaning it is easier for people to pick up infections.
At this point, HIV becomes known as AIDS. Fortunately, very few people in Scotland develop AIDS due to effective treatment.
Can HIV be cured?
No. There is currently no cure for HIV.
However, over the last 25 years, effective treatments have been developed that can control the virus and let you lead a long, healthy life.
You can find out more about all aspects of HIV from our HIV Support and Advice page.
Although there is no cure for HIV, there are a range of highly effective treatments that can manage the virus and help people live long and healthy lives.
These treatments are known as ART (or Antiretroviral therapy) and usually involve taking between 1 and 4 pills a day.
Because there is no cure, a person living with HIV will need to take treatment for the rest of their life.
HIV treatment works by reducing the amount of HIV in the body (which is known as the viral load).
When the viral load gets below a certain point, HIV is said to be undetectable. It can take up to six months of treatment before this happens.
When a person is undetectable, they CANNOT pass on HIV through sex. This is known as U=U and we'll come back to this later on...
You can find out more about HIV treatment from our HIV Advice and Support page.
Because the symptoms of HIV are so mild and easy to miss, the only way to know your HIV status is to get tested.
Getting an HIV test is quick, easy and confidential, with some tests giving you results in minutes. HIV tests are provided to anyone free of charge on the NHS.
There are a few different testing options out there, including:
- At your local NHS sexual health service
- Through your GP
- Through community services like Waverley Care
- At home through hivtest.scot
You can find out more about what's involved in testing from our HIV Advice and Support page.
HIV can affect anyone who has been at risk, but it affects some groups more than others.
In Scotland, HIV disproportionately affects gay and bisexual men, African communities and people who inject drugs.
If you think you have been at risk of HIV recently or in the past, you can find the nearest place to get an HIV test by searching our simple service directory here.
In Scotland, HIV is most commonly passed on through unprotected sex or through sharing injecting equipment.
There are various different options that you can choose from, depending on your circumstances, to help prevent HIV being passed on.
Condoms and Lube
- Used correctly, condoms and lubricant remain a highly effective way to prevent the spread of HIV.
- Condoms are freely available from locations across the country, with different areas running different schemes.
- Condoms can also protect you from a wide range of sexually transmitted infections.
Find out more about condoms and contraceptives from our sexual health section.
- PrEP is a pill that stops the person taking it from getting HIV.
- PrEP is available on the NHS in Scotland, through sexual health clinics.
- PrEP can be prescribed to people who are at a high risk of HIV infection.
- Some people choose to buy PrEP online, and there are specific websites dedicated to helping people to do this as safely as possible.
Along with partner organisations, we are supporting www.prep.scot, an online source of information about PrEP, including details of the eligibility criteria used by the NHS.
You can also find out more from our HIV Advice and Support page.
If you’ve had sex and think you may have been exposed to HIV, you can access treatment known as PEP or PEPSE (Post-Exposure Prophylaxis).
- PEP involves a four-week course of tablets, and can vastly reduce your risk of HIV infection after you have been exposed.
- You should be able to get PEP at most sexual health clinics and in hospitals (usually in the A&E department).
- The sooner you start the course after you think you may have been at risk of HIV, the better. Ideally, this should be within the first 24 hours, though PEP may be offered up to 72 hours after exposure.
Find out more about PEP from our HIV Advice and Support page
- U=U is a message that shows how effective HIV treatments are today.
- HIV treatments work by reducing the amount of HIV in your body.
- When the amount of HIV gets below a certain point, HIV becomes undetectable. In other words, it means HIV can no longer be found in your blood.
- Your viral load will only become undetectable if you have been taking HIV treatment for more than 6 months and if you continue to take it as prescribed.
- Your HIV doctor is the only person who can confirm that you are undetectable.
- If your viral load is undetectable and you are taking your HIV treatment as prescribed, you cannot pass HIV on through sex. This is called untransmittable.
- U=U only prevents HIV being passed on through sex – it doesn’t prevent HIV being passed on through other routes such as sharing injecting equipment.
- U=U is only about HIV and does not prevent passing on hepatitis C or other STIs. Using condoms and lube is the best protection against STIs. Never sharing injecting equipment is the best protection against hepatitis C.
Clean injecting equipment
- If you are living with HIV or worried about HIV transmission through injecting, you can prevent the spread of HIV by always using clean injecting equipment and, never sharing injecting equipment.
If you are worried about HIV transmission, we’re here to help you. Get in touch with us for support and advice.
Support Waverley Care
Donating to Waverley Care regularly spreads your donation over the year and allows you to choose the date that you make payment. You can donate monthly, quarterly, half yearly, or annually by Direct Debit.
If you’d like to make a regular donation, you can:
- Donate online by using a debit or credit card and selecting the regular giving option through the Charities Aid Foundation. It’s quick, easy and secure.
- Donate by post by completing our Direct Debit form and returning it to: Waverley Care, 3 Mansfield Place, Edinburgh EH3 6NB.
- Donate by phone by calling Matt or Holly on 0131 556 9710.
Remember to Gift Aid! For every £1 you give, Waverley Care can get an extra 25p from HM Revenue & Customs at no cost to you. If you are a taxpayer and qualify, remember to click the box to gift aid through the Charities Aid Foundation or complete the Gift Aid section of our Direct Debit form when you return it by post.
Your fundraising is more important than ever. Here are our favourite ideas of how you can help our key workers support the most vulnerable people in our communities right now:
Take on a red run
..walk, swim or climb on World AIDS Day! Choose your challenge, dig out your red lycra and get training. Whether it's a 5k around your local park or indoor stair climb, create a fundraising page on Facebook or Virgin Money Giving and ask friends and family to sponsor you.
Host a virtual birthday
Hold a virtual bucket shake
Bucket shaking has always been a huge part of our fundraising, from the bright lights of theatre to the cold and breezy street collections. We've missed out on hundreds of shows this year and seen a huge loss of donations. However, this isn't going to stop us fundraising and you can shake a virtual bucket instead!
Find out more about Virtual Bucket Shakes
If you'd like to speak to us about your fundraising ideas, please email Holly and Matt at email@example.com or call 0131 556 9710.
Join us at an event
We're planning a number of online World AIDS Day events to raise awareness of different aspects of HIV in Scotland and to learn more about Waverley Care's work. Find out more below...
Greater Glasgow Clyde