This week has seen the arrival in Britain of the campaigner Bruce Richman. Bruce is the founder of the global campaign #UeuqalsU and works with partner organisations around the world to help tackle the stigma that surrounds HIV and to educate people with the campaigns message that #UequalsU, which stands for Undetectable equals Untransmittable.Bruce has worked tirelessly since 2013 to get the message across that having a supressed viral load, being undetectable for more than 6 months, means that you cannot pass on the HIV virus. Upon Bruce finding out this medically known fact after years of living with HIV and been in the dark about this information, he realised that not only was it the first time that he had heard this new scientific fact but that lots of other people had not heard about this fact either. So Bruce decided that the message needed to heard by as many people as possible and set out to spear head a campaign, from his apartment in Brooklyn, that would do just that.
The #UequalsU campaign was not just about educating the people of America to the facts about HIV transmission but the campaign set about working with partner organisations around the world to reach as many people as possible. The campaign was conscious of the fact that it needed backing by medical professionals in order to push this message, and so last year Bruce gathered as many top clinicians as possible to stand by the message that people living with HIV cannot pass it on. This message was bolstered by the results of a scientific study, the PARTNER study, that scientifically proved, in writing by professionals, that #UequalsU.
The campaign has galvanised support from 340 organisations across 44 countries, in order to get its message across and to tackle the stigma that people living HIV often encounter. The message #UequalsU is being pushed by Bruce and in partnership with as many organisations around the world, so that everyone has access to this medical information. The message is being pushed also so that those people that are receiving the wrong information about the transmission of HIV can have access to the correct information and that the stigma associated with the disease can be broken down and understood by as many people as possible, through these partner organisations. With Bruce and the campaign working with as many international organisations as possible, Bruce is literally tackling this stigma head on in each of the countries he works with, and does so by supporting organisations to support #UequalsU, in whatever form that takes. In doing so, he helps smash the stigma of HIV, helping as many people as possible to live healthy sexual lives with informed education. The campaign aims to make this information as accessible as possible to all who access it through their medical practitioners or online through trusted online websites and organisations, such as UNAIDS. This support from charites and organisations like UNAIDS helps to galvanise the message and helps to tackle the stigma surrounding HIV.
Bruce’s visit to Britain comes at a time when the Terrance Higgins Trust’ new campaign ‘Can’t pass it on’ launches with its aim at tackling the stigma of HIV and its educational message of the #UequalsU campaign. It also comes after a recent YouGov survey revealed that only 9% of people know that being undetectable means that you cannot pass the virus on and so, a visit to the offices of THT was accompanied by a Facebook live interview with Bruce and Dr Michael Brady, medical director at the trust. The interview was an opportunity for people who were watching the interview to ask any questions that they might have concerning the information that was discussed and it was an opportunity to listen and learn about some facts that we might not have known. For example, I did not know that been undetectable means that you can have a baby and that the virus cannot be passed on. How amazing is that? The interview was held to get the message across that U really does equal U and to support the new campaign by the trust, Can’t pass it on by helping to tackle the stigma associated with HIV and to educate us all about facts surrounding #UequalsU.
“There is no reason people on effective HIV treatment can’t date, fall in love, have sex, work or have families just like anyone else. We urgently need to bring people up to date with medical evidence and listen to science, not stigma, and that’s why campaigns like Can’t Pass It On, and #UequalsU, are so important.”
Watch the full Facebook interview with Bruce here
If you’re interested in learning more about #UequalsU then you can visit PreventionAccess.org
For more information on the THT Can’t Pass It on campaign go to; http://tht.org.uk/cantpassiton