Dear Friends and Allies,
It has been a few months since our last bulletin and as ever we have a lot to update you on.
We now have workers to manage both our funded projects, ‘Texting 4 Testing’ and the ‘Wales HIV Advocacy Network’ and both are now underway. Texting 4 Testing is a Gilead-funded one-year programme focused on increasing access to HIV testing through supporting GPs to send brief HIV testing messages and a link to order a test by text message to all adult patients. Zsanett Lukács is in charge of this with Cardiff University’s Dave Gillespie managing the evaluation and we plan to have two waves of GP messaging across Cardiff & Vale with the first in late June/early July and the second after the summer holidays. We will be evaluating the general programme; whether having two levels of access to different tests is a barrier or an incentive; and whether there is a clear preference for oral or blood-based tests. If you are in Cardiff & Vale and able to support this project in any way, please contact Zsanett at email@example.com
Hana Owens will be developing a Wales HIV Advocacy Network and starting the development of Fast Track Cymru under the umbrella of Wales HIV Advocacy Matters, a two-year project funded by Viiv Healthcare. If you are a community organisation, a person living with HIV or want to do more about HIV anywhere in Wales please get in touch with Hana at firstname.lastname@example.org – she would love to hear from you. The same goes for any other cities interested in creating local Fast Track networks like ours – we are already talking to Swansea and North Wales and would be happy to put people in touch with each other about this.
It’s fair to say that FTC&V made a bit of a splash at the British HIV Association Conference (BHIVA) in April and at the Fast Track pre-conference. Many of our staff and volunteers attended in person or online. Four steering group members participated in panels, gave presentations and presented posters and our Comms Lead Alessandro Ceccarelli won a high commendation (and earned a few laughs from the audience) for his poster presentation entitled “Networking for HIV/AIDS prevention”. This poster, alongside Dr Dave Gillespie’s poster on his research with Cardiff University entitled “Stigma related to HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis use among men who have sex with men in Wales”, can be viewed on our website here.
Many of us have been working alongside Welsh Government and other sexual health organisations and people with HIV on the forthcoming Wales HIV Action Plan. A draft has now gone to the Health Minister in preparation for a formal launch of the Plan by the First Minister at the Senedd on the 15th of June. After this, the Welsh Government are running a 12-week consultation. They are encouraging people to participate in this – and so are we. We think that the contents of the Plan as they stand are good, but we know that improvements can always be made and concerns raised, and people will have their own concerns. If you have never responded to a Government consultation before, or need help with this one, we will be providing a guide to responding on our website and via social media. If anyone would like to have this information emailed directly to them or to have a discussion about the consultation please email Hana at email@example.com
As part of the planning work on this, several FTC&V members have been involved in the working groups. We have particularly emphasised the importance of including people with HIV at every level of planning, delivery and evaluation and the need for more visibility of prevention, testing and anti-stigma messages and education in Wales. Our Cardiff University members and volunteers have been closely involved in providing evidence for the Plan, including a review of the feasibility of developing a peer-support service for people living with HIV in Wales. We also have MSc students working on the role of community pharmacy in HIV testing and PrEP, a systematic review of peer support and a review of population-level stigma interventions. You can read more about our research and evaluation projects on our website.
Our anti-stigma exhibition 21st Century HIV is finally being launched alongside the Action Plan and the anniversary of Terrence Higgins’ birthday at a THT-led event in the Senedd on the 15th of June. This photo exhibition celebrates and showcases a diverse group of people living well with HIV in Wales, discusses the stigma that holds people back from being more open and how and why these people overcame that. These panels are in A1 format for display on easels or walls and will shortly be available to be borrowed for events. They will also be available in smaller formats for download and printing from our website for use in talks and teaching anywhere in Wales. If you want to express an interest in borrowing the full exhibition once it is available, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Most recently we have also been promoting sensible messages about Monkeypox from Public Health Wales, THT and the UK Health Security Agency. There’s only been one case in Wales so far but it’s a good idea to familiarise yourself with what it looks like. You can check our post here.
Finally, we’d like to congratulate everyone in healthcare and community work in Wales who has featured in the Queen’s Birthday Honours, but particularly our Leadership Group member Zoe Cousins *OBE* of Public Health Wales for her fantastic work on COVID-19, including creating our free postal HIV testing service.
As ever, if you no longer wish to receive this bulletin, please feel free to unsubscribe from our mailing lists. Conversely, if you know of an individual or organisation that would benefit from receiving it, please let us know and we will get in touch.
The Fast Track Cardiff & Vale Team