We’ve got some great news. Did you know that when HIV is diagnosed the treatments are so effective that for most people the level of virus in their body becomes so low that HIV can’t be passed on? Undetectable = Untransmittable. This message, known as the U=U campaign, challenges the stigma that has surrounded HIV since the 1980s. At HIV Scotland, tackling stigma is our top priority. 

Fear has perpetuated stigma for so long. Many people are too scared to get a HIV test because of the fear of a diagnosis, but it doesn’t have to be this way. If everyone living with HIV in Scotland were diagnosed, we’d be able to put a stop to new transmissions.

In Scotland we have all the tools. Effective treatments mean that for most people living with HIV, they can’t pass it on. We’re also adding new treatments to the NHS regularly to ensure that anyone who isn’t undetectable is able to access new medicines that work for them. PrEP, the pill that people who are HIV-negative can take to prevent HIV transmissions, is also available free at the point of use on the NHS in Scotland – meaning people can take their HIV-status into their own hands and help us on the path to zero new transmissions. There’s so much to be grateful for, and we don’t talk about it nearly enough.

That’s why we’re talking to you about HIV. We can only break the cycle of myths and misconceptions by reaching out and talking about the facts. Facts like how HIV is transmitted, because not enough people know that you can’t get HIV from sharing a toilet seat, a mug or cutlery with someone living with HIV. HIV is transmitted through condomless sex or sharing needles. It’s actually quite a weak virus, so exposure to the air kills it almost instantly. That’s why touching blood doesn’t pose a risk of HIV transmission, and that goes for spitting too.

Given there’s not been a public campaign about the modern-day realities of HIV, it’s not surprising that people continue to fear the unknown. Those that lived through the 1980s remember the vision of the tombstone. But we’ve come such a long way. People living with HIV are enjoying long, healthy and fulfilling lives. They are ageing well, with a normal life expectancy. But a late diagnosis can impact on how healthy you can be with treatment. That’s why getting an HIV test and knowing your status is the most important thing that you can do. Knowing your status means you can protect your sexual partners. Knowing your status means the fear of the unknown isn’t giving you anxiety. Knowing your status means you can enjoy life, love and, most importantly, sex. Sex is there to be enjoyed and, with our advances in HIV treatment and prevention, everyone can do just that regardless of their status.