"World AIDS Day 2023 – HIV after* COVID in the UK" Blog by Wren Wilson
On World AIDS Day (December 1, 2023), the Centre for Biomedicine, Self and Society (CBSS) at the Usher Institute, hosted a roundtable with key voices to discuss the futures of HIV after COVID. The 6 discussants and 71 attendees represented clinical, activist, as well as scholarly realms of HIV engagement in the UK. Each speaker provided their brief remarks regarding their perceptions on the futures, challenges, and opportunities for HIV in the UK. The presentations and resultant Q&A emphasized inclusivity, community engagement, and the need for flexibility in addressing the complexities of HIV-related policies and actions following the COVID-19 pandemic response.
Roundtable speakers included:
- Susan Hopkins: Chief Medical Advisor at the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) and Professor of Infectious Diseases and Health Security at University College London
- Virginia Berridge: Professor of History at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and author of AIDS in the UK
- Claire Dewsnap: Consultant physician in genitourinary medicine and President of the British Association of Sexual Health and HIV
- Michael Brady: Consultant physician in HIV and National LGBT Health advisor
- Michelle Croston: HIV nurse and professor, founder of HIV Matters podcast and co-editor of Providing HIV Care
- Yvonne Richards-Cooper: Women's activities officer for George House Trust
Several key messages and actionable considerations arose from this generative event:
- Co-Production: Necessary at the Nexus
Speakers initially centred on co-production and the need for this to shape future HIV policy. A shift towards co-production will support more active community involvement as well as highlight potential power imbalances in clinical or policy engagement.
Call to Action: For effective co-production, the meaningful integration of input by people living with HIV should take place at the start of research and policy investigations, rather than only at later stages for feedback.
- Care Communities: Engagement and Acknowledgment
While engaging communities for further co-production was deemed necessary for future efforts, the speakers noted that it was also crucial to recognize the busy lives of community members. People living with HIV have rich and full lives that exist beyond engagements with their HIV care. They have jobs, families, and diverse responsibilities.
Call to Action: Any approaches that engage directly should be done with respect and acknowledgement of these diverse realities. Individuals should consider compensation for participation and accommodations to facilitate expansions to engagement of community members.
- Trust-Building and Barrier Breaking
The speakers further expressed the importance of acknowledging the mistrust that still exists within communities. Classic tick-box measures and traditional forms of community engagement have not led to a full and accurate understanding of the lives of people living with HIV in the UK and how they engage with care.
Call to Action: It is critical to consider both local and national contexts, as well as lived experiences, when crafting policy to meaningfully move forward as a collective toward comprehensive improvements to HIV care.
- HIV Histories
In the context of contemporary national and global goals to end HIV transmission, it is important to reflect on the afterlives of previous public health engagements regarding HIV in the UK. Comparatively, the reactions and language during the COVID-19 pandemic can offer further insights on how public health narratives can greatly impact the realities of daily life.
Call to Action: Those working in HIV should meaningfully engage with the history of HIV care and how past policies in the UK have shaped current approaches, perceptions, and medical assumptions. As the UK reflects upon the COVID-19 strategies and narratives, it can further engage with how the most recent pandemic can offer a unique way to reflect on the realities and histories of HIV.
This event was supported by the Centre for Biomedicine, Self and Society at the Usher Institute, University of Edinburgh, and the ESRC-funded Viral Memories project [ES/X003604/1]. The event was co-organised by Jaime Garcia-Iglesias, Chase Ledin, Wren Wilson, and Élaina Gauthier-Mamaril, and supported by Jenny Bos, Lorna Thompson and Faye Watson.
Check out the video of the event here:-