To mark World AIDS Day on 1 December, we spoke to Dr Michael Brady, HIV and Sexual Health Consultant at King's, who is also the National Advisor for LGBT Health at NHS England, and the Medical Director of the HIV and Sexual Health charity, the Terrence Higgins Trust.
"World AIDS Day is important for several reasons. It's a time for us to remember all those who have suffered and died since the beginning of the epidemic. It's a time to celebrate the amazing successes that have been achieved in the treatment and prevention of HIV over the last three decades or so. And it's an opportunity for us to reflect on the work that we still have to do to end HIV transmissions, to end HIV stigma and to ensure that everyone has access to effective HIV treatment and care.
"Wearing a red ribbon is the international symbol of World AIDS Day and, if you buy one from a charity or make a donation, you can also do something to support their work with people living with or affected by HIV; either in this country or around the world.
"We must show support for those living with and affected by HIV, as it's a condition that is stigmatised perhaps more than any other. Whilst things are not nearly as bad as they were in the early days of the epidemic, it is still the case that myths and misunderstandings about HIV are common and people living with HIV still experience unacceptable levels of stigma and discrimination. HIV has always been a disease that disproportionally affects those who are marginalised or disadvantaged, so it's not just a clinical issue - it's an issue of human rights, and a moral and ethical challenge to address the inequalities experienced by people living with HIV.
"Did you know that people living with HIV who are on effective treatment have a zero risk of transmitting the virus to their sexual partners? This was confirmed by a couple of large studies published a few years ago and has significantly shifted our approach and the language we use. People taking HIV therapy that fully suppresses the virus can be confident they will not pass the virus on to their partners.
“Knowing this has a huge impact on the lives of people living with HIV. It takes away the fear and shame that can surround having sex and forming relationships. It makes conception as easy as it is for people who are HIV negative. It reduces the stigma associated with HIV and is a positive message for us to share to encourage people to test for HIV and take life-long but life-changing treatment."