Love is in the air…

This week is not just Valentine’s Day, but also Sexual Health Week in Northern Ireland. There could be no better time to shine a light on our Fast Track Cities pledge.

Fast Track Cities is an exciting global partnership between cities around the world, all driving towards the goal of achieving zero new HIV diagnoses and zero AIDS-related deaths by 2030.

I firmly believe we could achieve this in Northern Ireland with continued education, awareness and HIV testing. Getting involved in a global initiative like Fast Track Cities will give us tremendous momentum. 

Partners in Fast Track Cities include big hitters including the United Nations Programme on HIV / AIDS (UNAIDS) and the lead partner is the City of Paris, which has given its name to the official agreement. Becoming a Fast Track City involves Mayors and other city officials signing the Paris Declaration on Fast Track Cities. This outlines a set of commitments to achieve the initiative’s objectives and thereby designates them as a Fast Track City.

And drum roll…I am thrilled to say that Belfast is already committed to being part of this.  This week, we met with the Lord Mayor of Belfast, Councillor Ryan Murphy, to get his signature on an official pledge towards this goal. The Council passed a motion backing the move just a few weeks ago.

Pictured with the Lord Mayor is Jacquie Richardson, Positive Life CEO, Cllr Padraig Donnelly who brought the motion in Belfast City Council and Cllr Roise-Maire Donnelly.

Other Northern Ireland councils are already hot on their heels. We’ll keep you updated on another city coming on board later the week (there’s a big meeting coming up on Friday!)

To launch Sexual Health Week, we’ll also be at Parliament Buildings chatting to MLAs as they head in to do business (hooray!) We’ll be armed with a sharpie and we’ll be inviting them to add their signature to the pledge too. Keep an eye on our social media with the #FastTrackCities to see who we meet.

You can check out the list of other cities and countries around the world and on every continent which have already committed to this: About us | Fast-Track Cities

We’re wondering if there’s a travel budget for this initiative, but sadly, I doubt it!  Anyway, we’re not Brazil, we’re Northern Ireland and we’re firmly committed to reaching zero new HIV diagnoses here.

So what steps are required to achieve this?  We’re working closely with the Public Health Agency and the Health Trusts, along with lots of other important partners, to keep promoting sexual health, safer sex, and driving awareness of the need for HIV testing.  The most effective way to drive new diagnoses down is by people knowing their HIV status.  The statistics show that many new cases come from transmission by sexual partners who didn’t know they were HIV positive.

So as we head into 2024, we’re on a Fast Track to eliminate HIV in Northern Ireland and we’re excited our cities are getting on board.