First new HIV awareness advert in 40 years to air on TV

A woman who was diagnosed with HIV seven years ago has welcomed the ‘long overdue’ television campaign

A woman who was diagnosed with HIV seven years ago has welcomed a “long overdue” television campaign that will see the first new advert raising awareness of the virus in 40 years.

The first major TV advert on HIV to air in Scotland since the UK Government’s Don’t Die Of Ignorance campaign featuring falling tombstones 40 years ago launches at 7.58pm on Monday evening on STV.

It will be a welcome departure from the message in the 1980s, telling viewers HIV was a “deadly disease” with no known cure and will instead inform viewers that those with the disease can live a healthy and happy life.

Emma McAnally was diagnosed with HIV in 2016 (Emma McAnally/PA)

Emma McAnally, 34, from Glasgow, said she hoped it would help others living with the virus to come to terms with their diagnosis.

She said: “When I was diagnosed with HIV in 2016 I was in total disbelief as I thought this was something that would never affect me.

“But I was reassured by the doctor that medication would allow me to live a normal, healthy life, and this would also mean I would not be able to pass the virus on to others.

“HIV hasn’t limited my hopes and aspirations in any way but the stigma has been the single biggest barrier of my diagnosis.

“Unfortunately, this stigma deeply affected me, my family and friends didn’t know how to respond and it was pretty horrific for me.

“Eventually, I became determined not to let that shame define me – having children was the biggest turning point for me as I became so confident in my body and by being on effective treatment, knew I could give birth to my son and daughter and they would be HIV negative.

“It’s incredible to see a long overdue TV advert on the reality of HIV in 2023 and how stigma is now more harmful than the virus itself.

“I hope it helps people living with HIV who are struggling to come to terms with their diagnosis feel a little bit less alone and also educates and raises awareness.”

The TV advert will be accompanied by a wider campaign on billboards, newspapers and online.

It is informed by Scottish Government-funded research from YouGov into attitudes and beliefs about HIV and produced by Terrence Higgins Trust, the UK’s leading HIV and sexual health charity.

The campaign aims to send the message that stigma is more harmful than the virus itself.

A graphic that will be used in the anti-stigma campaign (Terrence Higgins Trust/PA)

Richard Angell, chief executive of Terrence Higgins Trust, said: “The Government’s Aids awareness advert in the 1980s undoubtedly saved lives, but it also cast a long shadow by terrifying a generation about HIV.

“That’s why it is high time we update everyone’s knowledge about the incredible progress that’s been made in the fight against HIV over the last 40 years by bringing it back into millions of living rooms.

“Our new film is based on the direct experiences of people living with HIV in Scotland who shared how much of a challenge the stigma still surrounding HIV is in their day-to-day lives.

“I hope millions will see our advert in the weeks ahead and be motivated to learn the facts and ditch the fiction about HIV.”

Public Health Minister Jenni Minto said: “Forty years ago, an HIV diagnosis was regarded as a death sentence – today people with the virus are able to live long, happy and healthy lives thanks to effective treatment.

“This campaign addresses that and reflects a commitment we gave last year to fund a marketing campaign to reduce the stigma that makes some people less likely to access HIV prevention, testing and treatment services. This will play an important role in achieving our commitment to eliminate new transmissions of HIV in Scotland by 2030.”

Danielle Kelly, STV’s director of strategy and sales Scotland, said: “When the team at Terrence Higgins Trust came to us with a proposal for Scotland’s first HIV awareness TV campaign in four decades, the STV Growth Fund was available to help them bring it to life.

“By utilising STV’s unrivalled reach across Scotland, the charity will bring the real experiences of HIV stigmatisation right to the forefront of the nation’s minds with this powerful campaign.”

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