Education is the key to busting HIV myths - as research shows many believe the virus can be spread by kissing
HIV and sexual health charity the Terrence Higgins Trust has launched a new, state-of-the-art centre in Glasgow, providing essential HIV and sexual health training.
It is hoped that the facility will tackle the high levels of stigma, misunderstanding and myths that still surround HIV in Scotland, even in professional settings like workplaces and healthcare.
There is still much to do, as a YouGov survey last year revealed that nearly a quarter (23%) of people surveyed in Scotland wrongly think that HIV can be transmitted by kissing.
Meanwhile, 32% of Scots mistakenly believe that sharing a toothbrush with someone who is HIV positive can pass on the virus.
Public perceptions are still mirroring those seen in the 1980s, the trust warned, fuelling stigma and discrimination.
The new learning centre is envisioned as a means of combatting this.
It draws on the expertise, experience and resources of Terrence Higgins Trust Scotland, which provides support, information and advice services for those living with HIV and affected by HIV or poor sexual health, offering opportunities for professionals to gain new skills and qualifications.
Terrence Higgins Trust Scotland is the first centre to offer Professional Development Awards in Sexual Health Training and HIV - two new courses, accredited by the Scottish Qualifications Authority.
Based at Breckenridge House on Sauchiehall Street, the centre also offers training in areas of growing importance, including sexual health and dementia and relationships.
Training on women and HIV, newly accredited by the Royal College of Midwives, is also available.
Megan DePutter, training manager at Terrence Higgins Trust Scotland, said: “Unfortunately, general awareness and understanding of HIV hasn’t kept up with medical advances, and that’s why training is so important, for example for employers, healthcare professionals and social workers.
“The HIV and sexual health training we’re offering to professionals across Scotland will help update knowledge, bust myths and help them approach HIV and sexual health with more confidence.
“Terrence Higgins Trust Scotland has a wealth of expertise in a wide variety of subjects related to HIV and sexual health, and we’re delighted to launch the learning centre as a hub for those who want to improve their awareness and understanding around HIV and sexual health, while gaining qualifications and skills.
“These courses are designed especially to help practitioners and service providers who are working with youth, older adults, people with mental health or addictions issues, as well as people living with or at-risk of contracting blood-borne viruses and sexually transmitted infections.”