Wow what a week…It felt like I never stopped. I have just arrived in Vienna for my second meeting for the Leadership and Accountability Programme for the next International Aids Conference.
On Thursday I attended the BHIVA conference, and Gus – who is holding the position at the moment- announced me as the new Community Representative. The reality hit me that it is going to be hard work, and I will need a lot of support from the ‘community’ I need to represent. I hope that my election will bring about some fresh air. To begin with, it is the first time that a woman, and somebody who wasn’t born in the UK is elected.
I thought that a first step to start to get a feeling of what the “community’ of people living with HIV believe is important, was to ask them what I should highlight during this meeting in Vienna, and what they thought could be good topics for plenary sessions. So I posted my question on the UKCAB web forum.
The response I had is that it is vital to highlight that even in the so called ‘High Income Countries’, there is large potential for improvement. A lot has been achieved, but there are still huge problems for certain sections of the population to access treatment and testing (migrants in particular), and that travel restrictions an widespread stigma and discrimination still hugely impact on the quality of life of people living with HIV. Since the conference is set in Europe, it should focus also on the realities of those of us who live in Western Europe. Not all is well.
On a similar note, something that really shocked me at the BHIVA conference was what was said during the presentation on the guidelines for treatment of co-infection with hepatitis C. Somebody asked how many people are accessing treatment with pegylated interferon and ribavirin. The answer was shocking: only 50% of those with co-infection are accessing treatment. And who are the excluded? Injecting drug users, who are deemed incapable of sustaining such a difficult treatment. But have they thought about how to support drug users through treatment? Have they looked at solutions? I don’t think so. I don’t think a lot of medical professionals really believe that those are patients who deserve treatment like all the others. It is clear that even in the UK if you are, or have been an IDU, you can be denied your right to health.