Spotlight on World AIDS Day at Aberdeen Airport − as more than one in three newly diagnosed cases of HIV in Grampian are acquired abroad
Storey-high health messages will be projected onto the front of Aberdeen Airport, putting the spotlight on World AIDS Day, 1st December. Latest figures show 43%, more than one in three newly diagnosed cases of HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) are acquired abroad.
The sequence of messages highlights how many cases of HIV in Grampian have been acquired abroad, the importance of using a condom and where to get testing and treatment locally. A giant red ribbon, the symbol of awareness and support for those living with the HIV infection, will also be seen from 4pm today, by thousands of people travelling to and from overseas.
The messages are also shown on digital display screens throughout the airport and on a billboard at the entrance to the airport. These and further awareness-raising activities by NHS Grampian are being backed by HIV/AIDS campaigner, Aberdeen-born international music star Annie Lennox, who will be tweeting her support for the campaign.
An Aberdeenshire man who was diagnosed last year with HIV backs NHS Grampian's initiative. He said, "I have worked abroad for many years. After a night with colleagues and a few too many drinks, I had unprotected sex.
"At first I thought I was ill with malaria but after further tests I was diagnosed with HIV. I am now receiving treatment and feel healthier than I have in a long time.
"I would urge everyone to use protection, and if you haven't − get tested. HIV doesn't just affect you, it affects your family, your friends and everyone around you."
Cases of HIV, with other sexually transmitted infections, continue to increase in Grampian. Unprotected sexual intercourse is by far the leading risk factor. Latest figures show that there have been 37 diagnoses of HIV in Grampian since January 2013 until September 2013 compared to 27 for the same period in 2012. More than one in three of these new cases were acquired while people were abroad.
Dr Emmanuel Okpo, Consultant in Public Health Medicine, NHS Grampian, said, "The message is clear: protect yourself and others by using a condom. If you have been at risk − get tested.
"We hope that travellers will take notice and take action. Many people wait until symptoms of infection appear before considering going for a test. This can sometimes be weeks or even years after the episode of risk and can result from having sex without a condom, having sex or receiving healthcare abroad, or sharing drug injecting equipment. If individuals believe they may have placed themselves at risk, it's important they consider early testing, to avoid long-term complications and further transmission to others."
Carol Benzie, Managing Director, Aberdeen International Airport, said, "We are pleased to be working alongside the NHS in support of this important campaign. It is hoped that the work being done right around the city will help raise awareness ahead of World Aids Day. If our involvement helps even one person think twice about their own health then it will have been a success."
Spreading the message
Tomorrow (Saturday,30th November), NHS Grampian will extend this year's World AIDS Day message to two major sites in Aberdeen, with a giant projection onto the St Nicholas House site and onto Union Square.
Dr Okpo said that anyone seeking testing, treatment and support in Grampian will be helped: "Effective treatment is available and if started early, treatment can help those affected live healthy and longer lives.
"Testing is widely available. You can talk to your GP or contact sexual health services directly. In Grampian, we provide a single point telephone number for patients and members of the public. Anyone looking for free and confidential advice, tests or treatment can contact any sexual health clinic in Grampian by calling 0845 337 9900."
NHS Grampian's campaign activities at Aberdeen Airport and in Aberdeen city centre aim to increase awareness, reduce stigma and promote testing for HIV in Grampian.
A digital projection of a giant red ribbon and health messages, including 'In Grampian many cases of HIV are acquired abroad', and 'Protect yourself and use a condom', will cover the upper storey front of Aberdeen Airport, from 4pm on Friday, 29th November, to herald World Aids Day − 1st December.
- Annie Lennox will be tweeting her message of support about NHS Grampian's activities for World AIDS Day on 29th November @AnnieLennox
- This year, World AIDS Day in Scotland is focused on making sure everyone knows the basic facts about HIV and AIDS:
You can't catch AIDS. Over time the virus HIV can develop into AIDS, but it's only HIV that can be transmitted.
In Scotland the two main ways HIV is passed on are sex without a condom and sharing drug-injecting equipment.
You can't catch HIV from kissing, spitting, shaking hands or sharing cups.
There's currently no cure for HIV. But there are effective treatments that mean people with HIV can live close to an average life span.
If you have been at risk get tested.