She said: “Through intensive effort on the part of communities, clinicians, researchers and policy makers, the scales are tipping in the right direction. The consequences of them tipping the other way – of the world moving from a position where we are making progress, to one where we are losing ground – are grave and would be borne by generations to come.
“However, if progress continues, there is optimism that we could end HIV in a generation.
“This could be achieved if testing for HIV became something that people were proud of. And they should! Because it is by testing we become the generation that ended HIV/AIDS. It would mean actively ensuring our knowledge is up-to-date.
“It would mean understanding and not judging.”
The university will be working with clinicians and researchers at the Brighton & Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust (BSUH) and Dr Jaime Vera at the Brighton & Sussex Medical School (BSMS). Funding is being provided by Public Health England (HIV Innovations Awards 2017/8). In addition to helping develop the campaign, the university’s School of Applied Social Science will evaluate its outcomes.
The project, which runs until November 2018, involves developing a digital public health campaign to ensure “the public knows about and understands what is at stake and how their actions can make a difference”.
Professor Debra Humphris, the University of Brighton’s Vice-Chancellor, added her support to the campaign: “HIV has brought misery to thousands of people and I am so pleased Dr Darking and the university are playing a part in bringing an end to the stigma surrounding this virus and, in doing so, helping banish AIDS.”
Led by Dr Gillian Dean from the Lawson Unit (BSUH), which offers treatment and support for people with HIV, the project will develop a digital social media campaign using illustrations, films and testimonials from people living with HIV to challenge assumptions and improve knowledge. Dr Carlos Peralta from the university’s School of Architecture and Design and Dr Liliana Rodriguez from the Martin Fisher Foundation, will lead the design and development of the campaign.