I enjoy any chance to put my thoughts down in a blog, but there’s probably a no better time than at New Year. Far from the time to reflect on the past, we use the new year to look forward, to commit to bettering ourselves, learning new skills, making new connections and seizing our opportunities. At our first weekly meeting after the Christmas break, the team at HIV Scotland considered what our personal goals might be in this new year, but also what our new-year-work-resolution would be. It got me thinking, a lot.

I was thinking about my own personal work-related goals, but also about much more than my own personal development. I consider this new year to be kinda special – it’s not just a new year, but a new decade. We have the ability to shape not just a single year, but how society and the world define this decade. Wouldn’t it be even more special if the twenties was the decade that we eliminated HIV?

That’s exactly what HIV Scotland committed to when we launched our Strategic Plan last year. Just 9 months ago, we set out our plan for Scotland that showed how we could reach zero new HIV transmissions, end the scourge of stigma and ensure that everyone living with HIV can live a life with dignity, respect, and happiness.

When I look forward, I see the opportunities that we all have to shape our society and really make a mark. However, I can also see many challenges. There are quite a few barriers to meeting our own personal development goals – time, willingness, drive, laziness, imposter feeling, priorities. Multiply that by 5 million, and consider what the barriers are to eliminating a disease from our society. It’s certainly not going to be a walk in the park.

The biggest challenge in our mission to get to zero new HIV transmissions is actually getting people to believe it’s possible. It's ambitious, but we can do it. Around one person a day is newly diagnosed with HIV in Scotland, but every year we’re seeing an overall decline in transmission figures. Every new transmission is preventable – we live in 2020 in Scotland. Our clinics, whilst overstretched, offer one of the best services available. Free testing, free treatment, free PrEP to those that need it.

We need to believe it’s possible – because it is. It won’t just happen, though. It’ll take hard work – a lot of hard work, but that’s where there are so many opportunities. Over the last year, we’ve been fostering old relationships and building new ones. Collaborating for a better society. Whether it’s for a drug policy that is fit for purpose or ending discrimination on our streets – we’ve been there at the front, hand-in-hand with our partners. We’re truly living and breathing our values of involving everyone.

Personally, I’m committing to using opportunities to grow and develop as a young leader – I have plenty more to learn let me tell you. As an organisation, we’re redoubling our commitment to live and breathe our values every day. Equality, so that everyone has the opportunity to have their voice heard. Involvement, so that we collaborate, listen and learn from others. Agility, so that we can respond to the needs, using opportunities to get the best for our beneficiaries. Creativity, so that our work has flair, is noticed and make a difference. Accountability, so that our work is the best that it can be whilst being accountable for things that go wrong. But there’s a bigger commitment we could all make.

So for 2020, why not join me in making a commitment not just to yourself, but to our society. Let’s not be part of the millennial generation, or Generation Z or the baby boomers – let’s be part of defining our own success – let’s be Generation Zero. The generation that made zero new HIV transmissions a reality. We can shape our society together. It won’t be easy, so let’s get to work! #GenerationZero

Want to play your part in #GenerationZero? Get in touch - [email protected] 

- Nathan Sparling