Picture courtesy of www.youtube.com
Brendan Westhoff (Medical Correspondent), Young London News
“At first only gays and IV drug users were being killed by AIDs,” a deep, sullen voice spits, as images of a grim reaper in a bowling alley knocks down human skittles.
“Don’t die of ignorance”, another morose voice booms over dark sinister music, as a tombstone baring the word ‘AIDS’ in large, bold capitals is stuck into the ground.
It is hard to comprehend that these images were once public information films in Australia and the UK for the awareness of HIV and AIDs.
Writing in the Independent, Hunter Charlton was diagnosed with HIV at the age of 20. On telling his family, he writes, “My parents’ generation lived through the public-health campaigns of the 1980s, which put tombstones on television screen. To them, HIV still meant a death sentence.”
This is evidence that the fear mongering pictures lay imprinted in the minds of the generations who saw them, continuing to contribute to the omnipresent stigma surrounding the illness.
In November, Public Health England (PHE) released figures that 110,000 people are living with HIV in the UK, with the rates of new transmission at an all time annual high. Pub.. About a quarter of those infected are unaware and pose a risk of further transmission.
Dr Valerie Delpech said, “We can’t overstate the importance of testing for HIV to ensure an early diagnosis.”
Delpech, who is head of PHE’s national HIV surveillance added: “Knowing one’s HIV status is the key to both effective treatment, and to preventing onward transmission.”
The Terrence Higgins Trust is the largest HIV and sexual health charity in Europe. Thanks to worldwide research and medical advances with treatment methods, the organisation states that, “many people with HIV are living long and healthy lives.”
With Public Health England acknowledging the need for increasing both the numbers and frequency of HIV tests, a new awareness campaign is required.
A new government-lead public awareness campaign should focus on the importance of testing and knowing your HIV status. This should also aims to dispel the myths and stigma surrounding the illness with an aim to remove the dark images of the 1980s.