Fast Track Cardiff March update

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This is the third news update 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

Covid restrictions have again limited our work and that of our partners, but we have continued to support the shift of NHS HIV testing in Wales to Public Health Wales’ national postal scheme. This included work with Llamau and Oasis to ensure that people without a secure home address can receive tests at agencies that support them. We now have a poster and leaflets available to any such agency that wants them and can provide information sessions to support staff.

To that end we also promoted European Testing Week in Wales with some very lively social media, which can be seen on our social media accounts. We provided a Testing Week information pack to 71 organisations in Cardiff & Vale in advance of the event and our most downloaded resources from the website were our Sexual Health Guide to Cardiff and our Getting To Zero Research Report into local needs and preferences. We hope next year to have an official Wales-wide HIV Testing Week.

Our first formal Leadership Meeting will finally take place on March 10th, chaired by Huw Thomas, Leader of Cardiff Council and including Vale Council, the Health Board, the University, Public Health Wales and senior representatives of other key players in reaching the Welsh Government target of no new HIV diagnoses by 2030.

Thanks to new project funding from Viiv, we have a six month pilot project tackling HIV stigma and self-stigma in Wales – 21st Century HIV. Its aim is to inform people of the realities of HIV now – that it is treatable and preventable, that treatment will help you stay well and unable to pass the virus on, and that is why getting tested and knowing your status is so important. Carwyn Williams, a highly experienced health comms professional, is our new project worker for this at 21stCenturyHIV@hiv.wales – drop him a line if you’d like to know more or help spread the message.

Part of this project is a pilot to evaluate the uptake of HIV self-testing kits through GPs which we are working with Butetown and Grangetown GPs and Cardiff University Clinical Trials Unit on. More in our next bulletin on how that progresses. And as part of LGBT History Month, in support of our move to re-establish a Wales-wide peer support group for people with HIV, our host charity Pride Cymru posted a conversation on living with HIV with Welshman Garry Brough of Positively UK, the leading peer support agency in the UK, which can be found at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-4mDpLfiOo4 (signer and closed captioning provided)

We now also have two research students at the University; one, Molly, is evaluating self-stigma strategies in other high-income countries and will shortly be presenting her project at the South West Society for Academic Primary Care, while Nina will be investigating stigma in non-specialist healthcare settings (GPs, dentists and general hospital settings) as those are repeatedly identified as problematic by people with HIV. Our Research and Evaluation Strategy is now online at https://fasttrackcardiff.wales/research-and-evaluation/

We have collaborated with Terrence Higgins Trust’s policy team to produce a small list of manifesto asks of all parties in the forthcoming Senedd elections. The key points are:

1.  An HIV Action Plan for Wales
2.  Establishing Fast Track City networks across Wales
3.  Continued funding of the national HIV and STI postal testing scheme and support for a Welsh HIV Testing Week
4.  Establishing a national HIV surveillance system
5.  Ensuring Health Boards meet their sexual health commitments and expand PrEP availability
6.  Leading a national anti-stigma campaign

Finally, we have been busy taking advantage of the popularity of the Channel 4 drama It’s A Sin to put across HIV testing and stigma messages. We were lucky to have a close link to the production, which has a strong Welsh storyline; our work and HIV in Wales have been mentioned in a number of panel discussions and articles in the national and UK-wide press as a result, including a presentation for over 100 Westminster parliamentarians this week. We are also responding to the APPG’s call for evidence from all the UK countries on what works in HIV testing and what barriers still exist.

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