Annie Lennox: Stigma is preventing people in Scotland from testing for HIV

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Singer Annie Lennox has commented on new research in Scotland showing nearly a quarter of people are unaware that a person living with HIV can live for more than 20 years.

The Eurythmics icon is getting behind Waverley Care’s ‘Always Hear’ campaign to help increase understanding of HIV and to tackle the stigma across Scotland.

A new survey, conducted by YouGov, shows that there is still confusion around HIV transmission in Scotland with 11% incorrectly believing that HIV can be passed on from person to person by kissing. 23% of adults are unaware that a person who is HIV positive can live for more than 20 years.

In an encouraging sign, 73% believe more needs to be done to tackle stigma.  However, a significant minority continue to hold stigmatising and negative views with 14% of Scots claiming not to have sympathy for those living with HIV.

“Stigma is one of the biggest challenges facing the diagnosis and treatment of HIV in Scotland and around the world today,” Annie Lennox said. “HIV treatment has improved dramatically over the last twenty years, but discrimination of the condition still means that people are scared to get tested.

“HIV stigma fuels people’s fear to test, which in turn leads to new infections as people don’t know whether they have HIV or not. That’s why I’m backing Waverley Care’s ‘Always Hear’ campaign to tackle the myths and stigma surrounding HIV in a bid to stop new infections and improve life for people living with the condition today.”

Men who have sex with men (MSM) account for a fifth of all new cases in Scotland.

On Friday, film producer and director David Furnish said in the London Evening Standard that high rates of HIV among gay men living in London was not something that could be ignored.

He wrote: “At the end of this month it is National HIV Testing Week. We need a big national push to get ourselves and our friends tested —without stigma, without shame and without stalling.”