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Rock the ribbon on World AIDS Day

Tomorrow marks World AIDS Day and locally ‘Friends for Life’ a support group for those with HIV/AIDS is raising awareness.

Friends for Life together with the Gibraltar Health Authority’s Infection Control Team and the Well Person Unit is this year raising awareness on HIV/AIDS, and is distributing free red ribbons across Gibraltar.

Information leaflets and ribbons will be distributed today to Bayside and Westside Comprehensive Schools, Prior Park School, Gibraltar College and the University of Gibraltar.

The group has encouraged all pupils and teachers to wear the ribbon on the day and all over the rest of the week in support of those living and those who have lost their fight against HIV.

Ribbons will also be distributed by the Infection Control Team at the entrance to Saint Bernard’s Hospital and the PCC.

The Red Ribbon has been the international symbol of HIV and AIDS awareness for over 30 years.

This year we mark 40 years of the first reported cases of HIV-related illnesses and death.

To mark this occasion the Red Ribbon flag will be flown outside St Bernard’s Hospital and the Moorish Castle and the hospital will be lit in red.

“Friends for Life has been all this time at the forefront of HIV awareness and support,” the group said.

“We are encouraged by the fact that with scientific and medical progress and with the help of the Gibraltar Health Authority, being diagnosed with HIV is no longer a death sentence.”

“By getting tested promptly and taking the very effective treatment well over the 97% of people living with HIV can’t pass the virus on and they lead a long and healthy life.”

This year’s theme is ‘Rock the Ribbon’.

“We would like to encourage everyone particularly young people to wear a red ribbon as a sign that together we can stop the spread of HIV,” the group said.

“The day allows us all to show our support for those living with HIV and remember those that have died from it.”

“Although much improved, stigma and discrimination still deters people from taking a HIV test.”

“These are regrettably still the issues that people living with HIV experience. Living with HIV can be difficult due to the way society views the virus due to misinformation spread by popular culture. It is important that we as a community better understand HIV and AIDS by learning the facts.”

“We believe that by knowing the facts and acting quickly we the Gibraltar community can work together and realistically put an end to the HIV epidemic.”

The group encouraged the public to remember the facts:

HIV can be transmitted:
 By unprotected sexual intercourse with a partner with detectable levels of HIV (the most common).
 HIV is often passed on when people who don’t know they have it, which is why it’s so important to get tested if in doubt.
 By sharing needles or other contaminated injection or skin piercing equipment
 From a woman with HIV to her baby during pregnancy, at birth or through breast-feeding (however see my comment on having a family above).
 By receiving blood infected with HIV as part of medical treatment. In Gibraltar this is very unlikely as all donated blood is screened for HIV.

You cannot however get HIV from:
 Touching
 Kissing
 Holding hands
 Sharing eating utensils
 Toilet seats
 Swimming pools
 Insect bite

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