MSPs are asked: What Will You Do about HIV?

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Friday 28th November 2014

The HIV Scotland parliamentary reception, ‘Scotland: What Will You Do about HIV?’ took place at Holyrood on 27th November 2014 and has helped ensure HIV remains a priority issue.

Fifteen MSPs from all parties attended or registered for the event as did eighty community members including many people living with HIV, people from high prevalence communities, human rights specialists, academics, mental health specialists, nurses, doctors, activists and students. All were urged to consider the future of Scotland’s response to HIV and what may come next for Scotland as the Sexual Health and Blood Borne Virus Framework draws to a close early next year.

Maureen Watt MSP, the newly appointed Minister for Public Health addressed the reception in one of her first parliamentary engagements. She said: “We have made good progress in the past five years” dealing with HIV in Scotland, but we need to continue working together to move toward a fully inclusive society “where people feel accepted, not stigmatised”.

George Valiotis and Maureen Watt

- Minister for Public Health Maureen Watt and HIV Scotland CEO George Valiotis supporting the 'What Will You Do about HIV' campaign

Kevin Stewart MSP sponsored the event for HIV Scotland. He said: “This event is extremely important and worthwhile in educating politicians.” He also expressed his “immensely high regard for HIV Scotland and the work that the organisation does”. Mr Stewart then wished to “commend the briefings by HIV Scotland” as “they help to formulate the right policies”.

Mike Reid, Chair of the Board of HIV Scotland, stressed that: “More than anything HIV is a relationships issue: it’s about our relationship with family and friends, work colleagues, healthcare providers, government, neighbours and lovers”.

The reception also heard from two speakers living with HIV. They shared their experiences and concluded by urging the people of Scotland to think about what they will do about HIV and AIDS this World AIDS Day.

In the first of the speeches from the HIV positive speakers, David who has been living with HIV for twenty-two years told the reception how combination therapy saved his life after an AIDS diagnosis and being told he may not live another week. He said: “Stigma prevents HIV positive people from being open about their status,”. David writes about the issue and hopes to educate people through his own experiences. He told the reception that the virus did considerable damage whilst it could and he lives with the effects of HIV everyday of his life.

The reception then heard from Farai, an African woman living with HIV who left Zimbabwe after being subjected to an horrific attack. She came to Scotland and has since faced an ongoing battle to seek asylum. After repeated applications for asylum her home was taken from her. She said: “The landlords threw away my belongings including my medication and I couldn’t take medication for five days,” which had a very negative impact on her already poor health. She was left "destitute" with no home. She asked MSPs and reception attendees directly: “What can you do to help people like me?”.

Attendees networked, shared ideas and expressed their positive reaction to the event by taking to twitter and congratulating the team and speakers on the success of the evening. Many were very moved by the stories from the two Positive Speakers. ‘What Will You Do?’ could be heard around the room from people feeling inspired and ready to take on the challenges we now face in dealing with HIV in Scotland.

- Written by HIV Scotland intern, Alix White