Fast Track Cardiff & Vale: One Year On
This is the second bulletin from Fast Track Cardiff & Vale to let you know what we have been up to in our aim to eliminate new HIV diagnoses by 2030 by:
- improving the quality and accuracy of data on HIV in Wales
- increasing access to and understanding of the importance of HIV testing
- challenging and reducing HIV stigma
Since our launch event in November 2019, everything we do has been impacted by coronavirus and that has meant a time lag in some work. However, it has also brought some opportunities and we have done our best to take advantage of these.
Our formal sign-up to become Wales’ first fast track city, originally projected for the following May, finally happened in October 2020. We made history in Fast Track Cities by becoming the first Zoom signup globally, with speeches both live and recorded from our Health Minister, the Leader of Cardiff Council, the Deputy Leader of Vale Council, the Chief Executive of Cardiff & Vale Health Board, the Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on HIV and many other Cardiff & Vale leaders and stakeholders. We’d like to thank everybody who participated.
We have also been busy adding further research and comms experience to our Steering Group. Professor Kerry Hood from Cardiff Uni’s Clinical Trials Centre has not only brought her own expertise but also a dedicated research team with interests in HIV. Thanks to them, we now have a robust survey report on the views of interested community members in Cardiff & Vale on HIV testing and stigma which will be published as part of our contribution to European Testing Week later in November. They will also be holding a research seminar on HIV research in that week, and are currently supporting a Masters student to review HIV self-stigma knowledge with a view to creating appropriate new tools for Wales
On the Communications side, thanks to Huw Cook of Public Health Wales we now have not only Twitter but also Instagram and Facebook presences to sit alongside our website. Follow us and amplify the messages! Most recently we supported not only our own work but also the annual UK-wide PrEP survey being undertaken by PrEPster – the first time they have had a dedicated Welsh supporter. Comms has also recruited our first volunteer, Alessandro Ceccarelli, to help grow our database of stakeholders across Wales.
Our social media messaging also swung into action with the return of students to Cardiff in September. Our Steering Group members produced a short leaflet on sexual health services for young people across Cardiff & Vale which can be downloaded here.
In November we also participated in the second UK Fast Track Cities conference, presenting on our current work including a showcase of the all-Wales pivot to postal testing which has been such a success. We are very lucky that our sexual health services and Public Health Wales took such a proactive stance; some other Fast Track Cities globally have seen testing grind to a halt during the pandemic, whereas we have increased HIV testing nationally and in Cardiff & Vale.
Two of our clinicians, Dr Darren Cousins and Dr Jonathan Underwood, presented our work to the C&VHB Clinical Senate recently and we continue to try and spread the message that HIV is still here but that we have the ability to wipe out new diagnoses by 2030 if we try.
We continue to work with Llamau and Oasis towards ensuring that those people who do not have a secure postal address to receive the new test packs can still get tested safely – more on that (including a poster and leaflet) soon. And upcoming plans alongside the first meeting of our Leadership Group of senior stakeholders include work for European HIV/Hepatitis Testing Week from 22-29 November; the GP home testing pilot; a series of Zoom interviews about HIV testing and stigma to be hosted on Pride Cymru’s YouTube page; and a major bid for secure funding to enable our work, very successful so far, to continue. Currently we exist through a series of small startup and project grants from Gilead Sciences, to whom we are grateful for their support.
If you would like to know more about European Testing Week, which runs from 20-27 November, it’s not too late to sign up and show your support through social media or sharing information and videos – just contact Huw Cook through our email address firstname.lastname@example.org or go direct to their own website at testingweek.eu And finally, on a more light hearted note, everyone who signed up to our formal launch should have received one of our special Fast Track Cardiff masks.