HIV: On the cusp of a brutal storm
HIV/AIDS Thirty years ago little was known about HIV, medication wasn’t available and social stigma was a huge problem. Today, things have progressed, but more needs to be done to remove the barriers that prevent the most vulnerable accessing support.
Of the roughly 85,000 people with diagnosed HIV in the UK, about 90 per cent are receiving treatment and, if taking it correctly, the virus can been suppressed to the point at which it is ‘undetectable.’ What this essentially means is that their disease progression has been halted and that it’s very difficult to pass on to sexual partners.
However, managing HIV has medical, psychological and social implications and findig the right help can be challenge. On a practical level, individuals need to access the right treatment and healthcare support. However, since many living with the disease come from vulnerable communities, there is also a huge need for services such as benefit support and housing advice.
“We’ve seen demand for our services increase but simultaneously had funding cut,” reports Dr Greg Ussher, CEO of METRO Charity who provide practical support for individuals and families coping with HIV. “Many of our clients are now in the middle of a brutal storm where they can’t access support and suffer increased hardship, distress and isolation.”
In addition, stigma remains a huge challenge. “We know that our clients are battling with issues of identity and hate crime,” continues Dr Ussher. “It can be a lethal cocktail and severely impacts their mental health and wellbeing.” In spite of all the medical advancements, there is still a long way to go to ensure those living with HIV can get the support they need.