SCOTLAND has a unique public health opportunity to effectively eliminate new HIV transmissions by 2030. We’ve not been able to consider something like that since smallpox, so it is vital that we take this opportunity whilst we can.

On World Aids Day, we must reflect and remember those who we lost, our friends, parents, siblings and lovers, who continue to be loved and remembered to this day.

As well as reflecting and remembering, we also must look at how far we have come. The modern-day realities of HIV are very different to the tombstone campaign of the 80s. We’ve made great strides forward in terms of prevention and treatment, but the hangover of that campaign means stigma and discrimination are still prevalent in Scotland today.

Someone living with HIV in Scotland today can live a long, healthy, and happy life – they can be on medication that reduces HIV to such a low level that it becomes undetectable in their blood.

When HIV is undetectable, it can’t be transmitted through sex. Yet people living with HIV still face discrimination when accessing services that we all take for granted.

As overall rates of new transmissions fall every year, on the surface it may seem like we’ve cracked the code. Unfortunately, for some of the most marginalised groups in our society – not only are we not doing everything right, but we’re failing them. Glasgow has seen one of the most significant and prolonged outbreaks of HIV among people who use drugs.

Criminalising drug use has undoubtedly fuelled the epidemic. It is a public health catastrophe that needs action. The criminalisation and stigmatisation of people who use drugs is a blight on our society. Whilst the Scottish Government cannot remedy that immediately, we must push for swift action to ensure that nobody is left behind.

If the outbreak in Glasgow is to teach us anything, it’s that we can’t be complacent. As the number of new transmissions declines, reaching people and communities affected by HIV will become more difficult. We cannot simply consider it job done until everyone living with HIV in Scotland has been diagnosed and has access to treatment.

That means there needs to be political will to spend some money and reap the rewards later. Short-term investment for long-term gain. If we don’t invest in our NHS and voluntary sector, then we could risk losing this unique opportunity to stop HIV in its tracks.

We can end HIV, but we can’t do that whilst the hangover of the 80s looms so large. Whether it’s discriminating against someone living with HIV in a tattoo studio, or people living with HIV waiting to the last appointment of the day because a dentist wants to make sure the equipment is sterilised – the myths and misinformation remains.

Whilst it’s good news to talk about social care for elderly people living with HIV, the stories we continue to hear about double-gloving, eye-shields, or leaving someone to the last bath of the day to make sure it gets “cleaned properly” need to be consigned to the history books.

It’s time that everyone knew about the modern-day realities of HIV. It’s time that people living with HIV can live their lives without fear of stigma or discrimination. We cannot continue any longer, if we are serious about ending the HIV epidemic, without a national, public campaign about what HIV is, how it’s transmitted, and why you shouldn’t be scared. HIV isn’t a death sentence, and it can’t be transmitted by sharing a mug, or a bath, or a kiss with someone living with HIV.

The next few years are critical for putting Scotland on the path to zero new HIV transmissions. We should be able to look back on this moment in ten years’ time and see how we grasped the opportunity. World Aids Day is rightly a day for remembering the past, but we should also use it to look forward, with ambition and drive, to end the epidemic.