AN NHS trust has said that an end to HIV discrimination and a target of zero new HIV infections is "within reach" by the end of the decade.

To coincide with World AIDS Day, University Hospitals Sussex NHS Foundation Trust (UHSussex) is launching a new project to help tackle the stigma around the virus and reduce HIV-associated discrimination.

Eileen Nixon, consultant nurse at UHSussex, said that fears of stigma and discrimination in healthcare can lead to some patients voiding treatment or declining HIV testing, which can have serious health consequences.

She said: "We are proud to leading on several stigma-reducing projects across our hospitals and the local health economy.

"This includes championing colleagues to come forward as HIV Allies and work with us to help create a safe space for people living with and affected by HIV, and reduce experiences of HIV stigma in our hospitals."

The latest project comes after Brighton and Hove adopted an initiative to increase access to testing in the community, to achieve the international goal of zero HIV infections by 2030.

The city, which has rolled out smart vending machines to dispense free HIV self-testing kits, has seen the proportion of new diagnoses that are recently acquired HIV infections drop from 33 per cent in 2018 to just eight per cent this year.

HIV consultant at UHSussex Dr Amanda Clarke said: "These machines are located in multiple venues across Brighton and Hove to make them accessible to everyone across the city.

"They also help to normalise HIV testing and reduce the proportion of individuals who remain unaware of their diagnosis; we really want everyone to know their HIV status.

"If people are aware of their status, they can get the treatment they need - whether HIV treatment or HIV prevention, including PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) if they are at risk of acquiring HIV.

"Someone living with HIV, who takes effective treatment cannot pass the virus on and can live a normal life."

Across Brighton and Hove and West Sussex, 99 per cent of those diagnosed with HIV are receiving retroviral treatment, with more than 98 per cent of those having an undetectable viral load - meaning they cannot pass it on.

Have you got a story for us? Email or contact us here.

Follow us on FacebookTwitter and Instagram to keep up with all the latest news.

Sign up to our newsletter to get updates sent straight to your inbox.

You can also call us on 01273 021 400.