In 2019 Bristol City Council joined forces with Brigstowe, the University of Bristol, Public Health England, Unity Sexual Health, North Bristol NHS Trust, Terence Higgins Trust, the CCG and members of the public to form the Bristol Fast Track Cities Steering Group, which leads, develops and directs Fast Track Cities work in Bristol. Since the Fast Track Cities declaration was signed, the Steering Group has been joined by the Children’s HIV Association (CHIVA) and Black South West Network.
Bristol Fast Track Cities reports to the Sexual Health Improvement Programme (SHIP) in Bristol Health Partners. The SHIP was set up as a Health Integration Team (HIT) in 2013 to support the commissioning of evidence-based sexual health services, improve the sexual health of Bristol’s population and reduce sexually transmitted infections.
Bristol Fast Track Cities is also part of the Bristol One City Plan. Given that HIV and its appropriate responses are influenced by a range of social, environmental and economic factors, the One City Plan offers a unique opportunity to influence a range of other domains across the city (e.g. housing, social integration, substance misuse) to improve our response to HIV/AIDS.
Bristol qualified for Fast Track Cities designation at the end of 2019, and Mayor Marvin Rees signed the declaration in a public ceremony on 30th November. He said
“We will work to increase HIV testing in our under-served and marginalised communities, reduce our late diagnosis rate and tackle HIV-related stigma and discrimination across the city. By adopting the Fast Track Cities Initiative’s principles in Bristol and pioneering a One City approach to tackle health inequalities, I am confident that we can rise to this challenge and end new HIV infections by 2030.”
The HIV/AIDS global epidemic remains one of the most important public health crises faced in modern times. Although the disease can now be effectively controlled by antiretroviral therapies, that doesn’t mean the fight is over.
For too many people in Bristol being HIV positive remains a condition that attracts stigma and prejudice that has negative consequences across every aspect of daily life. Ending this stigma requires tackling public misperceptions about HIV status across Bristol.
Late diagnosis is still too prevalent among those infected with HIV. We need to ensure that HIV testing is promoted and available at every level of the health service. Preventing late diagnosis also means working alongside communities in Bristol to better understand how to improve testing.
Effective treatments with anti-retroviral therapies are thankfully extending the lives of people living with HIV, but with this comes new challenges as those living with HIV age.