Set between 1981 and 1991 the television series It's a Sin has tells the story of the HIV/AIDS crisis in the UK during that decade. At a time when an emerging new illness was generating fear, despair and anger people came together to provide support, care and fight for services for people who were living and dying from HIV. Nurses were at the forefront of responding to the crisis at a time when very little was known about the virus and a positive HIV test result was seen as a death sentence.
Newspaper articles and social media discussions about the series have raised awareness of HIV - not just about the history but the stigma, political challenges and how life has changed for people living with HIV. With the advances in treatment and care people living with HIV now have a life expectancy that is the same as other people in society.
As we are now in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic the parallels between HIV and Covid-19 can be seen. Whether this is how nurses have responded to this pandemic, learning how to care for people as new research and evidence becomes available and the search for a vaccine alongside the public health information that has been disseminated. What we do know is that from every pandemic there is learning that will impact on how we plan and respond to future pandemics and how this learning shapes our preparedness for future responses. In every outbreak or pandemic the value and importance of nursing and public health is demonstrated. Whilst the Covid-19 journey continues and we are starting to see light at the end of the tunnel with the role out of vaccines. One day we may have a vaccine for HIV.
In December 2020 the HIV Commission published their final report and recommendations on how we can get to zero HIV transmissions in England by 2030. The report calls for a national HIV action plan and focus on five key areas - transformation, equity, resources, leadership and partnerships.
The recommendations provide a clear way forward that can end the HIV epidemic in England. Nurses who work in HIV services and public health have a key role in achieving the target by promoting testing, challenging stigma and demonstrating visionary leadership.
The RCN has produced a range of sexual health and HIV online resources that provide information and advice on career development, education and support available.