People Diagnosed with HIV

Part of Private Members' Business – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 12:45 pm on 29th November 2016.

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Photo of Ian Milne Ian Milne Sinn Féin 12:45 pm, 29th November 2016

Thank you, Mr Speaker, for the opportunity to speak on this very important motion. While noting the concerns expressed by those who tabled the motion about the level of stigma experienced by people living with HIV, I put on record my support for any new campaign that promotes awareness and prevention and, more importantly, that is tailored to our local needs. I also commend the good work being carried out in this field by organisations such as Positive Life and Rainbow.

It is important that we place on record our support to show that we care for people living with HIV. Making all efforts towards the development and improvement of the service to help people living with HIV is part of this. How we organise our health service matters, including how we better resource HIV prevention. We also need to support those people in our community who are living with HIV on quality-of-life issues, including social protection and positive mental health.

We must not understate the importance of testing for HIV to ensure an early diagnosis. As stated by the Public Health Agency, people respond better to treatment when they are diagnosed at an early stage of disease. The agency also stated that knowing your HIV status is the key to effective treatment and the prevention of onward transmission. HIV stigma is a key obstacle to HIV treatment, prevention and support. Sixty-eight per cent of respondents from the North of Ireland who contributed to the 2015 HIV stigma index stated that they had a negative self-image, so it is most important that we create an effective public awareness campaign in an effort to tackle the misconceptions around HIV. I support the motion.