This coming Sunday (1st December) marks World AIDS Day – The annual day for action and reflection for those people around the globe who are living with HIV or AIDS.
At Positive Life we are working harder than ever to raise awareness of the now lifelong condition in Northern Ireland.
However, we are doing that in a social environment that we feel is around 20 years behind the rest of the UK when it comes to attitudes towards those with HIV and AIDS.
We are all too aware that this lack of knowledge and understanding perpetuates higher levels of stigma that many experience elsewhere. But how can we start to change the conversation to create acceptance?
Sex Education in Schools
We really do need to start to address relationship and sexuality education in school in a proper way far beyond the standard biological teachings about pregnancy, but about Sexually Transmitted Infections and HIV in particular.
Until we challenge this head on, the stigma and shame of contracting HIV will remain and many living with the condition will feel like outcasts in our own society.
Sexual Health Strategy
There is a massive lag in social attitudes towards HIV and AIDS and we are calling on our elected representatives and policy makers to start to shape a strategy that has real tangible outcomes or else we are in real danger of falling further behind.
As a society, we have a duty of care to look after the health and wellbeing of everyone and not let anyone feel ashamed or worthless because of a particular condition.
We really struggle to talk openly about sex and sexual health here. There is a culture of embarrassment and shame about it and it’s something we have to combat. Burying our heads in the sand simply doesn’t work.
Let’s use this World AIDS Day to make a real shift change in Northern Ireland.