A major new community project is launching an outreach programme in Bristol with the aim of eliminating the stigma of HIV and thus increase the rate of testing for the virus among people of African and Caribbean heritage.
The project, named Common Ambition Bristol, hopes to bring together the local community and its NHS health professionals to develop new and innovative ways of testing for HIV and encourage people of African and Caribbean descent to get tested more and increase awareness.
The initiative is led being led by a Bristol-based charity called Brigstowe and the African Voices Forum, who have a launched a programme of initiatives, which includes:
- A new, myth busting website developed by people of African and Caribbean heritage that educates people on HIV.
- Bristol's only dedicated sexual health drop-in clinic for African and Caribbean heritage communities – based at Charlotte Keel health centre.
- Wellbeing sessions to learn about sexual health, relationships, and new ways of preventing HIV.
- Working with local barbers to share knowledge about HIV.
- Partnership with local community events to increase HIV awareness and knowledge.
Aisha-monic Namurach, Common Ambition Bristol project coordinator, said: “To be involved in such a ground-breaking project in a city that not only expects change when it comes to inequalities but demands it is inspiring. Our co-production project has one of the most invaluable partners and that is the people of Bristol.
“Common Ambition Bristol has been built with people for the people. It's important to us that African and Caribbean heritage communities are no longer left behind, that we as a community are in fact included, valued, empowered and celebrated. We have work to do in our communities when it comes to HIV and stigma particularly, but we are also well placed to effect change.”
The project sets outs four key aims of increasing HIV awareness, increasing HIV testing, decreasing the late diagnosis of HIV, and to decrease HIV stigma.
Approximately 2.4 out of 1,000 people in Bristol aged between 15 and 59 are living with HIV – which is higher than the national average.
Dr Lindsey Harryman, a consultant in genitourinary medicine at Unity Sexual Health which is led by University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS Foundation Trust, said: “This is a fantastic opportunity to work with our partners in a completely new way to sustainably improve our NHS sexual health services with and for people of African and Caribbean heritage and to reduce the long-standing stigma around these issues.”
The community project is being evaluated by researchers from the University of Bristol (National Institute for Health and Care Research Applied Research Collaboration West) to help achieve the goals of the global Fast Track Cities partnership, which Mayor of Bristol, Marvin Rees, signed up to in late 2019. The partnership hopes to tackle HIV stigma in cities as well as reducing HIV transmission rates in the city to zero by 2030.
More information on how the NHS is supporting the project is available here.