PositiveLite.com has published many articles to share the news and discuss the facts around the Undetectable = Uninfectious campaign: that people living with HIV who are on successful treatment and undetectable for six months cannot transmit HIV. PositiveLite.com is a community partner with the Prevention Access Campaign and has endorsed the Consensus Statement given the wealth of scientific support for these facts.
France’s oldest HIV/AIDS organisation, AIDES, has just launched a publicity campaign which pulls no punches and states that people living with HIV on treatment are uninfectious, in line with the arguments advanced by the Prevention Access Campaign. I prepared this article from an AIDES’ news release and other campaign materials from the AIDES website.
"Revelation," is the national French HIV campaign, designed to positively shake up the image of people living with HIV while tackling stigma. Launched by France on November 22 in Paris, Revelation is a major campaign to transform the public’s attitude about people living with HIV.
The campaign is aimed directly at the French public with spectacular photos which some would consider shocking, but with a simple message that could change everything for people living with HIV: “An HIV-positive person on treatment does not transmit the virus”.
The group says that antiretroviral drugs today are so effective, they make the virus undetectable in most people living with HIV. The group also says that people on successful treatment can no longer transmit HIV “even in the case of unprotected sex”. The group says this information is “scientifically accepted” but it has had a very tough time getting through to the public and to some people living with HIV.
A breath of fresh air for people living with HIV
AIDES, founded in 1984, is a leading French HIV/AIDS advocacy group with a presence in 70 cities and towns throughout France. AIDES has decided it needs to get this information out directly, without waiting for additional government funding, so as to finally crush the stigma felt so deeply by so many people living with HIV. In addition to sharing this campaign with the media, it will be widely displayed at their 75 locations and via their partner organizations throughout France.
If successful, the campaign would represent a marked change in the public perception of people living with HIV. AIDES worked in partnership with a major French ad firm to design and implement the campaign.
"It is our responsibility to make this information available to as many people as possible," explains Aurélien Beaucamp, president of AIDES, "because the most significant burden on the quality of life of people living with HIV is not the virus; it’s the daily stigma and discrimination they suffer."
Beaucamp said that there is a considerable gap between therapeutic progress and the social perception of HIV. In France, 86% of people living with HIV are successfully treated and have an undetectable viral load. They are therefore healthy and no longer transmit HIV, he says. Despite this, people living with HIV are too often rejected emotionally and sexually by potential partners.
In their latest survey of people living with HIV in March 2016, 49.1% reported sexual or relationship rejection due to their positive status. "For fear of rejection, many people are reluctant to have any emotional or sexual relationships, they no longer want to talk about their status or take their medication in public. They no longer want to risk the stigma. These are situations that place people living with HIV in a form of self-denial, which is particularly harmful to their quality of life and their ability to take care of their health," explained Mr. Beaucamp.
"It is our responsibility to make this information available to as many people as possible," explains Aurélien Beaucamp, president of AIDES, "because the most significant burden on the quality of life of people living with HIV is not the virus; it’s the daily stigma and discrimination they suffer"
Through four large and beautiful black-and-white posters, this campaign provides the public with a simple message: "HIV-positive people on treatment have a lot to share; they can’t share the HIV virus.”
The campaign aims to spread a calm and gentle message to combat stigma. Each poster shows a couple making love during a sporting or artistic activity: parachuting, scuba diving, dancing and at the piano. One of the two people shown is HIV-positive and shares their knowledge and talent with the partner.
“This is the first time that such a message has been the subject of a major national campaign, so it was necessary to deliver it with serenity ... and a little lightness too,” said Mr. Beaucamp.
Through this campaign, AIDES hopes to show another aspect of people living with HIV. These are gifted, loving people who want to remind the world that they are not just about their HIV+ status.
Treatment as Prevention (TasP) was first brought to light in 2008 by Pietro Vernazza in the Swiss Statement. In an interview, the AIDES president explained, “Since 2010 we have been striving to make this information known to the public, in particular through the media… Our mission is not to substitute ourselves for any public authority. Purchasing advertising space is expensive. It’s beyond our means to disseminate a national information campaign on prevention on a very large scale. We felt that it was up to the scientific community, the doctors and the public authorities to do this work to provide greater impact to the message. Yet 8 years later, despite the accumulating scientific data, this message was still ignored by the majority. So, we decided to launch our own campaign.”
Due to a lack of awareness about TasP among the general public, some people living with HIV and even among health professionals, AIDES decided to launch this campaign to fill the gap. “A campaign alone is not enough to change the attitudes and mentalities of an entire population. This is a first step and it was our responsibility to do this. In parallel, we will continue to inform and educate health care professionals on this issue, as we have been doing for several years” added Mr. Beaucamp.
Click here to read the original AIDES announcement in French.
About the author: Denis LeBlanc is a long-time gay and HIV+ activist living in Ottawa. Now retired and disabled, he remains active by working as a volunteer on individual campaigns and projects. He has recently accepted to volunteer as Global Liaison for the Prevention Access Campaign. For more detailed bio, see Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives (CLGA), here.