Stormont HIV debate was welcome first step to removing stigma

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As 1 December is World AIDS Day, there was a well timed debate in the Assembly this week focusing on raising awareness of HIV.

The need for raising awareness was itself demonstrated in the debate, as MLAs admitted that without the work of the charity Positive Life, they would themselves have a much reduced understanding of HIV.

With more people than ever in Northern Ireland now diagnosed with the condition, and quite possibly others still undiagnosed, this work needs a renewed focus and a renewed vigour.

I think it important to emphasise that there was an all-party approach on this issue, something which would surely not have been possible in the past.

I am particularly glad the minister was so positive about my amendment asking her to look proactively at how the drug PrEP, which prevents at-risk people from contracting HIV, may be commissioned in Northern Ireland as part of the ongoing Health Transformation process.

The debate has served to remove the barriers to progressing not just with raising awareness of HIV, but also preventing it.

This is a welcome first step to removing the stigma around the condition.

Paula Bradshaw, MLA Alliance, Belfast South