A highly significant visit to Brighton & Hove took place on Thursday 9 September by Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of UNAIDS and an Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations, in recognition of the city’s collective work on HIV prevention and treatment.
Ms Byanyima leads the United Nations’ efforts to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030 and is a passionate and longstanding champion of social justice and gender equality. More than 100,000 people are living with HIV in the UK, and Brighton & Hove has the seventh highest rate of HIV in England and the highest outside London.
During the visit Winnie, accompanied by other officials from UNAIDS, attended a HIV Community 'Market Place' where she met with many local organisations about their work and also discussed the city’s approach with local MPs and the Leader of Brighton & Hove City Council.
They then gathered at the city’s AIDs memorial at New Steine gardens for a moment of reflection and discussion with the sculpture’s artist Romany Mark Bruce.
Speaking about Brighton & Hove City Council, Winnie commented: “You have a council that every country that is a democracy wants to have.
“You have a connection with communities - communities that work with the council, research, private sector, all working together to fight HIV and AIDS. You need long standing, trusting relationships with all actors and you have it here.”
“Vital need to increase awareness, improve education and fight stigma”
Commenting on the visit by the UN agency, Councillor Phélim Mac Cafferty, Leader of the council said: “It was an enormous privilege and honour to welcome Winnie Byanyima and the UN to the city. I am extremely proud of the many varied different ways the city is committed to fighting HIV.
“Although new HIV diagnoses in Brighton & Hove continue to fall, HIV has sadly not gone away. Across England there are 5,900 undiagnosed people living with HIV- their health is in serious harm and there is an increased risk of transmission.
“So there’s still a vital need for all of us to increase awareness, improve education and fight the scourge of stigma that is still faced by too many. If we can diagnose the remaining people who do not know their status, they can start effective treatment straight away.
“Today’s event builds on the commitment we won during the summer from the Department for Health and Social Care that will see the city pilot HIV testing when people attend A & E, register for a new GP and at pharmacies in the city. This is to try to normalise testing in the community and builds on increased testing and successful campaigns to battle stigma.”
The UK government has pledged to end new cases of HIV within the decade in England. In its final report, the national HIV Commission urged ministers to ‘test, test, test’.
Along with the rest of the UK, Brighton & Hove has exceeded the Fast-Track Cities Initiative target of 90-90-90.
- 93% of people living with HIV know their status
- 99% of those are on treatment
- 98% of those on treatment have undetectable virus in their blood stream.
Reflecting on the city’s priorities Councillor Phélim Mac Cafferty added:
“Our aim is for zero HIV infections, zero HIV stigma and zero HIV related deaths. Today’s visit from the UN is recognition of the leadership role the city is taking to normalise HIV testing and meet the national target of ending new cases of HIV by 2030.”
“Proud to host some of the best HIV support”
Outstanding progress has already been made in the city towards prevention, to increase testing and to fight HIV-related stigma. Brighton & Hove was the first city in the UK to have ‘HIV Fast Track City’ status and has some of the best online testing services in the country.
Speaking on Brighton & Hove as a national leader in driving down HIV infections and supporting people living with HIV Councillor Phélim Mac Cafferty said: “I’m extremely proud that our city is the host to some of the best HIV support, treatment and prevention services in the country.
“This is down to the hard work and strength of our many brilliant local organisations, volunteers, health and public sector workers. Effective strong partnerships have been built up over many years and the strength of the collaboration is shown in the effective work on the ground.
“Brighton & Hove is home to a number of fantastic local organisations– such as Lunch Positive, the Martin Fisher Foundation and the Sussex Beacon. They provide outstanding local care and support to those in need – from prevention, to supporting people with diagnosis, care and treatment. They work effectively with important national organisations such as Terrence Higgins Trust, National AIDS Trust and the Elton John Foundation.”
In a bid to normalise testing and increase access, the city has been at the forefront of innovation in HIV testing. This includes the installation of free HIV test vending machines in some public buildings, including Jubilee Library.