A NUMBER of local buildings including the Lerwick Town Hall, Mareel, Shetland Museum and Archives and the Clickimin Broch have been lit up in red overnight from Saturday to Sunday as part of a nationwide initiative to mark World Aids Day.
The annual celebrations are held to raise awareness about Aids a disease that still kills five people per minute mainly in African countries.
In Scotland over 4,000 people have been diagnosed with HIV, and it is estimated that there are around a further 1,100 who don’t know that they have the virus.
NHS Shetland’s public health specialist Wendy Hatrick said World Aids Day is important as it reminds people that HIV has not gone away and that there is still a need to provide funding, increase awareness, fight prejudice and improve education.
She said early detection of whether people carried the virus was vital.
“There are a small number of people in Shetland diagnosed and living with HIV, but we do not know how many people are infected but have never been tested.
“If you think you have been at risk then taking a test sooner rather than later means you get diagnosed earlier and can start treatment earlier.
“There is evidence that individuals are being diagnosed at a late or very late stage of infection when treatment may be less effective on a weakened immune system.
“This highlights the importance of HIV testing and getting people into treatment as early as possible,” she said.
In Scotland the two main ways HIV is passed on are sex without a condom and sharing drug-injecting equipment.
She added: “You can’t catch HIV from kissing, spitting, shaking hands or sharing cups.
“There is currently no cure for HIV, but there have been great advances in the understanding and treatment of HIV and Aids, which mean that many people who have good access to healthcare, such as in the UK can live close to an average life span.”
Confidential information, advice, testing and treatment is available through local GP surgeries and also through the Shetland sexual health and wellbeing clinic.
The clinic is open every Monday evening from 6.30 – 8.30 pm in the outpatient department of the Gilbert Bain Hospital, in Lerwick. No appointment is necessary for HIV testing or advice.