Michael Matheson has shown his support for a campaign to end HIV-related stigma in Scotland.
The Falkirk West MSP met representatives of HIV Scotland at the Scottish Parliament this week, ahead of World AIDS Day on Saturday.
The charity has launched a book, Disclosures: Rewriting the Narrative About HIV, which contains poetry, stories, artwork and non-fiction aimed at busting the myths about what it means to be someone living with HIV in Scotland today.
Mr Matheson said: “Stigma is still a huge issue for people with HIV and is one of the biggest barriers to testing – and if people aren’t diagnosed, it means they can’t access vital treatment and support.
“People with HIV often fear revealing their status to partners, family and friends, which can lead to isolation and mental health problems. By addressing HIV-related stigma and social exclusion, we can make a real difference to the lives of people with HIV.
“HIV Scotland’s new book is a great tool to educate and inform people about the modern-day realities of living with the virus and I’m proud to support the charity’s work.”
There are 5213 people diagnosed as living with HIV in Scotland, with 368 new cases reported in 2017. But it’s believed 13% of people who have the virus are unaware of their status.
A person with HIV who is successfully on treatment can achieve an undetectable level of the virus, which means not only will they be healthier than someone who is undiagnosed but they will also not pass on the virus to others.
Nathan Sparling, interim chief executive of HIV Scotland, said: “Scotland has all the right tools to reach zero new HIV infections. It’s fantastic to see MSPs supporting the launch of our stigma-busting book, which brings together people living with and affected by HIV to take part in creative activism to change the narrative of HIV in Scotland.”
World AIDS Day is held on December 1 each year to remember the 35 million people who have died worldwide from AIDS-related illnesses, to raise awareness to prevent new cases of HIV and to stand in solidarity with people living with the virus.