A CHARITY is urging the Scottish Government to take urgent action or risk falling behind England and Wales in preventing new HIV transmissions.

The HIV and hepatitis C charity Waverley Care held a reception at the Scottish Parliament on Thursday evening as part of its latest campaign: #GetToZero.

Hosted by Scottish Labour MSP Paul O’Kane, the event saw people living with HIV share their stories and encourage members of the public to get behind the Scottish Government’s commitment of stopping new HIV transmissions by 2030.

However, the chief executive of Waverley Care, Grant Sugden, said that the Scottish Government was at risk of falling behind England and Wales when it comes to achieving this goal.

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“We are in real danger of falling behind England and Wales if we don’t act now. Both the Westminster and Welsh Governments have published funded HIV action plans which provide real strategic direction and investment to achieve the goals we want.

“While we have a proud history in Scotland as a global leader in HIV prevention and treatment, we still need to do so much more to challenge stigma and ensure we do all we can to end HIV transmission by 2030.”

Waverley Care called on the Scottish Government to introduce opt-out bloodborne virus testing in emergency departments, an initiative which has proven to be successful in England and Wales at finding people living with undiagnosed HIV.

They also want the establishment of a Scottish national HIV testing week and the provision of universal and barrier-free access across Scotland to pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) for everyone who needs it.

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When taken before sex, PrEP can reduce the risk of a person getting HIV.

O’Kane also called on the Scottish Government to take action.

“I’ve been delighted to engage with Waverley Care in the last few months firstly at a roundtable discussion and then at yesterday’s reception.

“Each of these events have been opportunities to discuss the key actions that have to be taken to challenge HIV stigma, increase HIV awareness and indeed try to reach zero HIV transmissions by 2030.

“We must continue to have those conversations and have them loudly enough so that the Scottish Government will listen and realise that the measures the #GetToZero Campaign are calling for can be delivered.

“It is our in hands to make these life changing advancements and so I’m calling on the Scottish Government to act now.”