Thirty years ago, the very idea of the country achieving zero new HIV infections – as well as zero AIDS and HIV related deaths – seemed impossible. Times, of course, have changed. Indeed, last week Lynn’s Behavioural Scientist, Ethan McQuaid, attended the UK’s largest HIV prevention conference, run by the Terrence Higgins Trust. This conference brought together colleagues from NHS, local councils, charities and more, all with the common mission of eradicating HIV and AIDS in England by 2030. And at the heart of it: PrEP.
On behalf of Lynn, Ethan presented his findings on the behavioural barriers underpinning PrEP uptake in the South West of England, completed for our client the South West Sexual Health Network. Notably, the work improves the understanding of behaviours of individuals dealing with HIV outside of London; research which is few and far between.
Specifically, the research aimed to engage hard to reach audiences across the rural South West. In the context of the conference, this was extremely pertinent. In fact, its keynote speaker, Professor Kevin Fenton, outlined that despite huge progress made through the ‘towards zero’ Department of Health & Social Care action plan, there was still so much left to do to meet the 2030 target.
Interestingly, one of the objectives of the action plan is to scale up HIV testing in line with national guidelines. This has been majorly achieved by introducing opt-out testing in all emergency departments across England. Similarly to the organ donor register, this is another great example of the power of defaults. In reference to Behavioural Science practice at Lynn, defaults are quick and easy wins in changing automatic and intuitive behaviours.
Insights into a HIV free future
After the day opened with the Minister for Public Health and Mental Health, Dr Caroline Johnson MP., talks from all the UK regions and disciplines ensued. As well as discussions on medical research on the effectiveness of doxycycline prophylaxsis as PEP and PrEP, talks also included research and insights from Kantar, to hearing first hand inspiring stories from HIV positive individuals. The power and inspiration felt in these rooms was immense. We at Lynn felt especially privileged to have had the opportunity to be involved in this life-changing work, which we hope to carry on in the future.
In the case of Monkeypox, we’re seeing a repeat of the mistakes that were made with the AIDS epidemic. Once again, disinformation spreaders seek to blame the LGBTQ+ community for the outbreak, creating a real-world risk of harm. A potential secondary outcome of the focus on the LGBTQ+ community is that non-LGTBQ+ individuals don’t consider themselves to be at-risk, further hampering the public health response.
With that being said, we must give thanks to our clients South West Sexual Health Network who allowed us to present the work we completed with them, and what a joy it was to finally, after a long pandemic wait, meet our once virtual clients in the flesh!
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