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Today marks World Aids Day 2022

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By Norbert Sene, Trustee Friends for Life

In Gibraltar, Friends for Life (the HIV/AIDS awareness and support group) will this year once again be distributing free the now traditional Red Ribbons as well as information leaflets together with the Gibraltar Health Authority’s Infection Control Team and the Well Person Unit and the LGBT+ group outside the entrance to St Bernard‘s Hospital and the PCC.

We encouraged all 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.

The Red Ribbon has been the international symbol of HIV and AIDS awareness since 1991. To mark World AIDS Day, the Red Ribbon flag will be flown outside Saint Bernard’s Hospital and the Moorish Castle and the hospital will be lit in red.

This year’s theme is Rock the Red 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 day allows us all to show our support for those living with HIV and remember those that have died from it.

Friends for Life has been all this time at the forefront of HIV awareness and support. We remind people ways of preventing getting infected such as by using condoms or not sharing needles.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 98% of people living with HIV can’t pass the virus on and they lead a long and healthy life.

A new major advancement is the availability of a pill known as PrEP which stands for pre-exposure HIV prophylaxis and is taken as a once-a-day-pill by someone who doesn’t have HIV. Studies show that oral PrEP is highly effective at preventing HIV. Trails are under way to see the effectiveness of taking it less often e.g. before and soon after sex are encouraging. With these results we urge the GHA to make PrEP available at the Well Person Clinic.

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 and responsibly, we the Gibraltar community can work together and realistically put an end to the HIV epidemic.

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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