The HIV Commission is arriving in Bristol on Monday (9 March 2020) to meet people directly affected by HIV in the city and hear more about the local response to the condition.
This follows Bristol joining the Fast-Track Cities initiative last November - a world-wide movement towards achieving zero new HIV infections and zero AIDS-related deaths by 2030.
The commissioners will visit a local sexual health clinic, a healthcare centre for refugees and a support centre for people living with HIV, to help inform the work of the Commission, which is tasked with making clear recommendations about how to end the HIV epidemic in England within the next decade.
The Commission’s visit is hosted by the Bristol Fast-Track Cities Steering Group which includes Bristol City Council, local HIV charity Brigstowe, Terrence Higgins Trust and the NHS.
Councillor Asher Craig, Cabinet Member for Communities and Public Health, said: “Bristol welcomes the HIV Commission and I look forward to sharing the progress we have made in reducing the number of new HIV infections in our city and in supporting people living with HIV.
“As a member of the Fast-Track Cities initiative - and now with a visit from the new HIV Commission - we are underlining our practical commitment to tackling health inequalities in Bristol. I am confident that we can rise to the challenge and end new HIV infections by 2030.”
There are around 1000 people in Bristol with HIV. Each year an average of 43 Bristol residents are diagnosed with HIV and many of these are diagnosed late which increases the risk of poor health outcomes.
Becky Mitchell, originally from Bristol, received an MBE for HIV awareness in the New Year Honours and will be sharing her experience of living with HIV with commissioners. Becky, who was diagnosed with HIV in her late thirties, has spoken about the need to increase awareness of HIV among women.
She said: “When I was diagnosed with HIV, I knew it wasn’t a death sentence and I knew that I could live a normal and healthy life. Sadly that knowledge isn’t seen across the wider public and is one of the barriers to ending the epidemic once and for all. If more people know the facts when it comes to HIV, we could remove that fear people have about getting tested and we could stop the stigma far too many people living with HIV experience.
“It’s also incredibly important to shine a spotlight on women’s experiences of HIV. We make up around a third of people living with HIV in the UK but for too long we’ve been near invisible. By hearing our voices, the HIV Commission will be better informed when it comes to women and HIV, and hopefully take us a big forward to ensuring that every woman affected by HIV doesn’t just live well but can thrive.”
Established by Terrence Higgins Trust and National AIDS Trust the HIV Commission is chaired by former Lloyd’s of London chief executive Dame Inga Beale.
She said: “Every member of the HIV Commission is excited about the opportunity to get on the road to learn more about how HIV has impacted England. We want to ask questions, find out how things vary from place to place and – most importantly – listen.”
The Commission says that public engagement and awareness are key to its success which is why it is visiting Bristol to find out more about the city’s response. They recognise that HIV can affect anyone in Bristol and would like to hear from a diverse range of voices.
The public is also encouraged to have their say on how to end the HIV epidemic by submitting their thoughts to the HIV Commission website. Submissions are being accepted in a variety of ways, from song and spoken word to dance and photography.