Why a public campaign?  

People who follow HIV Scotland’s work or picked up a Metro Newspaper this week will have noticed our public campaigning has gone up a notch. That’s because tackling the stigma, myths and misconceptions that surround HIV is our number one priority. Since we launched our new 11-year Strategic Plan, our goal has been to get Scotland to zero new HIV-transmissions. We can only do that by updating the public consciousness about HIV which will help us combat stigma.  

Our campaign has focused on 4 key messages: 

  • U=U, Undetectable = Untransmittable, the scientific fact that people living with HIV on effective treatment, that reduces the level of virus in their body to such a low level that it becomes undetectable, can’t pass it on their sexual partners.  
  • Testing – because undiagnosed HIV is the real issue in Scotland. We estimate that over 500 people in Scotland don’t know they have HIV, so getting tested and knowing your status can help protect you and others.  
  • PrEP – the “magic” pill that when taken before and after sex, as directed, stops people who are HIV-negative from acquiring HIV.  
  • Living well with HIV – because of medical advancements, HIV is no longer linked to tombstones, but long, healthy, and fulfilling lives.  

These messages are important to prevent new transmissions, combat stigma, and ensure that everyone living with HIV can live long, prosperous, and happy lives without fear of discrimination because of their status.  

So why now?  

Last year, the Scottish Health Council’s Citizens Panel included questions on HIV. The Citizen’s Panel is a representative sample of the whole of Scotland. We wanted to understand Scotland’s knowledge of HIV, to ensure we built the right campaigns to help us get to zero new transmissions.  

Here’s what we found out: 

  • Only 17% percent of Scots knew about PrEP, the pill that can prevent new HIV transmissions and is available on the NHS for those who need it.  
  • 21% of people believed that HIV can be transmitted through kissing.  
  • 5% of people believed HIV could be passed on through sharing a glass, cup or cutlery.  
  • Only 27% of Scots would be comfortable starting a new relationship with a person living with HIV.  
  • Only 14% of people knew that someone living with HIV, on effective treatment with an undetectable viral load, can’t pass it on to their sexual partners.  

That’s why our campaign is designed to change the hearts and minds of people in Scotland; equipping them with the knowledge and information they need to ensure the fear that has surrounded HIV for so long is eradicated. As the week comes to a close, our messages will have reached 1,112,000 people via print and social media campaigning. And this is just the beginning. Campaigns like these are only possible thanks to the generosity of our supporters. If you would like to continue seeing us doing even bigger and better things, do consider contributing to our wider ZEROHERO campaign. We are grateful for each and every donation we receive that enables our work to reach as many people as possible. 

Know your status, access PrEP or treatment, and talk about HIV and sex with everyone you know. Together we can end the stigma. Together we can stop HIV. Let’s get to work.