IRVINE and Kilwinning's MSP has urged an end to the stigma of people living with HIV.

She addressed a debate at Holyrood last week to mark Worlds AIDS Day 2017,

Over 100,000 people are living with HIV in the UK, with over 6,000 of those in Scotland. Globally, there are an estimated 36.7 million people who have the virus. Despite the virus only being identified in 1984, more than 35 million people have died of HIV or AIDS, making it one of the most destructive pandemics in history.

The SNP MSP for Cunninghame South underlined how stigma is one of the main issues still to be overcome – as well as highlight that progress that Scotland has made to tackle HIV in recent years.

She told Holyrood: “Stigma is perhaps the biggest issue facing those living with HIV in Scotland, with many people left ostracised and with poor health and social outcomes – such as mental ill-health, anxiety, and suicidal feelings.

“Stigma is also one of the biggest barriers to testing, treatment and support. HIV Scotland estimate that around 13 per cent of people with HIV in Scotland are unaware of their status – with fear of a positive diagnosis discouraging individuals from getting tested and engaging with health services.

“The stigma and fear around testing can lead to late diagnosis, which negatively impacts on a person’s quality of life and life expectancy.

“So we must all continue to work hard to end HIV related stigma, through education in our schools and through Scotland’s wider HIV anti-stigma strategy.

“We must continue to raise awareness about the fact that everyone has an HIV status and encourage people to get tested.

“And we must continue to ensure that people living with HIV have access to the medical and emotional support that they need to lead fulfilling and healthy lives.

“At the time time, there is quite a bit to take pride in. We can take pride in the fact that, by ensuring access to new medicines and treatments to treat HIV, we are a global leader in HIV policy.

“We can take pride in becoming the first country in the United Kingdom to offer PrEP on the NHS.

“We can take pride in the fact that last year’s figure for new reported cases of HIV, at 317, was the lowest annual figure to be recorded since 2003.

“And we can take pride in Scotland’s HIV anti-stigma strategy, “Road Map to Zero”. This will provide the foundations for Scotland’s HIV anti-stigma strategy action plan, which will be published in 2018.

“I look forward to seeing that strategy and, in the meantime, would encourage everyone, particularly MSPs, to use whatever influence we have to tackle HIV-related stigma wherever we see it and whenever we can.”