Groundbreaking campaign to encourage early treatment for HIV launched

Australian Pride Network Treat HIV Now A new campaign featuring images of real people living with HIV to encourage early treatment for people diagnosed HIV-positive has been launched by the Victorian AIDS Council (VAC) and Living Positive Victoria.

Titled Treat HIV Now, the campaign has grown out of recent evidence from the global START study showing conclusively, for the first time, that there are significant health benefits to the individual for starting antiretroviral therapy for HIV as soon as they are diagnosed.

“Early HIV treatment will significantly reduce and delay any potential negative side effects,” said Brent Allan, CEO of Living Positive Victoria. “With the advances of effective treatment for HIV, people who are diagnosed promptly and take the medicine as prescribed can expect to live healthy and full lives. We hope this campaign will encourage people to prioritise their health, get tested and get treated.”

Alongside a website featuring information about HIV treatment, stigma and living with HIV, Treat HIV Now will involve an extensive public advertising campaign. The campaign features the message: This morning I was diagnosed with HIV. This afternoon I decided to start treatment. In other versions of the campaign, images of people living with HIV are accompanied by the message: I’m HIV positive. It’s time to start treatment.

Brent Allan continued: “What makes this campaign so significant is that it brings a real face to the forefront of this issue and as an organisation we applaud those who have taken part. This is another step forward in battling the silence, shame and stigma that often leaves so many people living with HIV feeling invisible.”

VAC CEO Simon Ruth, added: “Studies have shown there is a real benefit to early treatment, but the most important thing to consider is whether you are ready to start treatment. Daily adherence is vital to achieve the best results from treatment so you’ll need to consider that ongoing commitment.”

Ruth said the campaign also highlights the community benefits of early treatment, in that people on effective treatment and who have what’s called an “undetectable viral load” are much less likely to pass HIV on. This is often known as “treatment as prevention.”

“What’s exciting about this campaign is that for the first time we are able to show that the benefits of treatment to helping prevent HIV transmission, through treatment as prevention, align with the benefits to the individual of better health outcomes,” said Ruth.

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Image: courtesy of the Treat HIV Now website