Eliminate HIV: Wales launches Testing Week to encourage people get tested

An online campaign and a talk will be launched next week to raise awareness of HIV in Wales, two experts talked about the difficulties to remove the HIV epidemic by 2030.

Murals of HIV activists were revealed in James Street, Cardiff Bay last week to promote HIV testing.

More needs to be done to remove the stigma of HIV testing and to encourage a wider group of people to get tested more regularly, say local campaigners.

The call came at the start of Welsh HIV Testing Week which aims to get more people open to the idea of taking a test.

“I think trying to remove the idea that HIV is just on gay men is a big one because for example, women have been very much ignored when it comes to HIV, and ethnic minorities are ignored as well even there is a higher proportion among them. It’s like all the focus is on the gay men.”

From 22nd to 28th November, an online campaign, initiated by Fast Track Cardiff & Vale, will promote the idea that HIV testing is lifesaving, free, quick and for all. There will be a talk, titled “how can we stop new diagnoses by 2030?”, in Cardiff Central Library on 25th.

As a gay man, Mr Williams recalled one of his friends at his age once said that he wouldn’t get HIV because he was not gay. Adam felt slightly offended, but what really concerned him was the misunderstanding about HIV, which could put people in danger, for example leading to late diagnoses.

Alessandro Ceccarelli, another speaker for the talk, said stigma was connected to the lack of knowledge. To remove the stigma, more people have to know what HIV is and the available resources around it.

Pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, an HIV prevention medicine, has become routinely available and free for all people who are clinically appropriate since 2020 after a three-year all-Wales study.

Starting from Spring 2020, Frisky Wales, a home testing pilot, was launched for people in Wales to order a test kit for HIV or other sexual-related diseases online.

Another pilot programme has also started in Butetown and Grangetown this June for GP practices to send out text messages to patients offering a free home test kit. A report was published this week recommending the extension of this pilot to other GP clusters.

Fast Track Cardiff & Vale has designed downloadable images for people to share the idea of HIV testing is for all.

Instead of cancelling stigma, both Mr William and Mr Ceccarelli believed more work had to be done.

“There is no unified database for HIV,” Mr William said. “In reality, what we need is a data system where all the HIV data goes into, so someone will monitor them regularly and then we can have real-time data.”

When it comes to the improvement of the data collecting system, adequate funding is the key. They called for the implementation of an HIV Action Plan for Wales, which includes establishing a national HIA surveillance (data) system.

The HIV Action Plan is an advocate to put goals into action. Fast Track Cardiff & Vale wrote: “Long term goals are not enough – we need a realistic plan to reach them, with practical actions to increase testing, target resources and tackle stigma in Wales.”

Mr Ceccarelli said the government should publish the HIV Action Plan as soon as possible. He believed if the government works with medical experts and representatives from different communities, Wales will achieve the goal.