Scotland has launched its first major television campaign on HIV awareness since the UK Government’s Don’t Die Of Ignorance campaign featuring falling tombstones 40 years ago. The new campaign aims to challenge the stigma and misinformation that still surround the virus and inform viewers that people with HIV can live healthy and happy lives.
How the new campaign differs from the old one
The new campaign, which is funded by the Scottish Government and produced by Terrence Higgins Trust, the UK’s leading HIV and sexual health charity, is based on the direct experiences of people living with HIV in Scotland. It features a woman who was diagnosed with HIV seven years ago and tells her story of overcoming the stigma and shame that she faced. The campaign also highlights the fact that people with HIV who are on effective treatment cannot pass the virus on to others, a message that is often unknown or misunderstood by the public.
The new campaign is a welcome departure from the message in the 1980s, which told viewers that HIV was a “deadly disease” with no known cure and used fear and guilt to discourage risky behaviours. The old campaign, which was widely criticised for being sensationalist and stigmatising, had a lasting impact on how people perceived HIV and those living with it.
Why the new campaign is needed now
The new campaign is needed now because despite the incredible progress that has been made in the fight against HIV over the last 40 years, there is still a lot of ignorance and prejudice about the virus. According to a Scottish Government-funded research from YouGov, many people still hold outdated or inaccurate beliefs about HIV, such as:
- 28% of Scots think you can get HIV from kissing someone who has it
- 24% of Scots think you can get HIV from sharing a toothbrush with someone who has it
- 19% of Scots think you can get HIV from using a public toilet
- 17% of Scots think there is no treatment for HIV
These myths and misconceptions can have a negative impact on the lives of people living with HIV, who may face discrimination, isolation, or violence because of their status. They can also prevent people from getting tested or accessing prevention and treatment services, which can increase the risk of transmission and health complications.
The new campaign aims to educate and raise awareness about the reality of HIV in 2023 and how stigma is more harmful than the virus itself. It also supports the Scottish Government’s commitment to eliminate new transmissions of HIV in Scotland by 2030, which requires a combination of testing, prevention, and treatment strategies.
How the new campaign will reach millions of viewers
The new campaign will reach millions of viewers across Scotland through various platforms and channels. The first TV advert will air on STV at 7.58pm on Monday evening, followed by more broadcasts throughout October and November. The TV advert will be accompanied by a wider campaign on billboards, newspapers, and online. The campaign will also use social media to engage with audiences and encourage them to share their views and experiences.
The campaign has received support from various partners and stakeholders, including STV, which has provided funding through its STV Growth Fund. Danielle Kelly, STV’s director of strategy and sales Scotland, said: “By utilising STV’s unrivalled reach across Scotland, the charity will bring the real experiences of HIV stigmatisation right to the forefront of the nation’s minds with this powerful campaign.”
The campaign has also received endorsement from Public Health Minister Jenni Minto, who said: “This campaign addresses that and reflects a commitment we gave last year to fund a marketing campaign to reduce the stigma that makes some people less likely to access HIV prevention, testing and treatment services. This will play an important role in achieving our commitment to eliminate new transmissions of HIV in Scotland by 2030.”
How the new campaign will impact people living with HIV
The new campaign will have a positive impact on people living with HIV in Scotland, who have welcomed the initiative as a long overdue step to change public attitudes and perceptions. Emma McAnally, 34, from Glasgow, who features in the TV advert, said: “It’s incredible to see a long overdue TV advert on the reality of HIV in 2023 and how stigma is now more harmful than the virus itself.”
Emma was diagnosed with HIV in 2016 and faced a lot of challenges due to the stigma and misinformation that she encountered. She said: “HIV hasn’t limited my hopes and aspirations in any way but the stigma has been the single biggest barrier of my diagnosis. Unfortunately, this stigma deeply affected me, my family and friends didn’t know how to respond and it was pretty horrific for me.”
Emma said that having children was the biggest turning point for her, as she became confident in her body and knew she could give birth to her son and daughter without passing on the virus. She said: “I hope it helps people living with HIV who are struggling to come to terms with their diagnosis feel a little bit less alone and also educates and raises awareness.”
The new campaign also hopes to inspire and empower people living with HIV to share their stories and challenge the stigma that they face. Richard Angell, chief executive of Terrence Higgins Trust, said: “Our new film is based on the direct experiences of people living with HIV in Scotland who shared how much of a challenge the stigma still surrounding HIV is in their day-to-day lives. I hope millions will see our advert in the weeks ahead and be motivated to learn the facts and ditch the fiction about HIV.”
What will happen next after the new campaign
The new campaign is expected to have a lasting impact on the public’s knowledge and understanding of HIV and its treatment and prevention. It is hoped that by dispelling the myths and fears that still surround the virus, the campaign will reduce the stigma and discrimination that people living with HIV face and increase their access to support and care.
The campaign is also expected to contribute to the Scottish Government’s goal of eliminating new transmissions of HIV in Scotland by 2030, which is aligned with the global target set by the United Nations. To achieve this goal, the campaign will encourage more people to get tested for HIV, as early diagnosis and treatment can prevent onward transmission and improve health outcomes. The campaign will also promote the use of prevention methods such as condoms, pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), and post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP), which can reduce the risk of acquiring or passing on HIV.
The campaign will also create a platform for dialogue and engagement between people living with HIV, health professionals, policymakers, media, and the general public. The campaign will invite feedback and input from various stakeholders and audiences, and use it to inform future actions and initiatives. The campaign will also monitor and evaluate its impact and effectiveness, and share its findings and lessons learned.
The new campaign is a milestone in the history of HIV awareness in Scotland, and a sign of hope and progress for people living with HIV. It is also a call for action and solidarity for everyone who cares about ending the HIV epidemic and ensuring that no one is left behind.
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