Why Bristol's African and Caribbean heritage communities are so disproportionately affected by HIV

  • Interview with project co-ordinator of Common Ambition Bristol, Aisha Namurach

A three-year project has been launched to increase HIV testing and awareness amongst people of African and Caribbean heritage in Bristol.

It comes after it was revealed people from these communities in the city are some of those disproportionately affected by the virus.

This is partly because of a reluctance to get tested and a lack of access to support, according to the project leader Aisha Namurach.

Aisha told ITV West Country: “Up until recently, there hasn’t been a sustained and continued engagement process with African and Caribbean heritage communities.

“We know there’s been a hard push within the MSM community, so it’s really important now that we’re having something that’s focusing specifically on African and Caribbean heritage communities, because we know that we do have problems there in terms of disseminating the information correctly, but also engaging the communities in talking about sexual health.”

‘Common Ambition Bristol’ will see health experts work with Brigstowe, African Voices Forum, and academics from the University of Bristol.

Together they will engage with people of African and Caribbean heritage in Bristol to try and dispel the lingering myths surrounding HIV and encourage regular testing.

Aisha Namurach is the project co-ordinator. Credit: Aisha Namurach

"We have a problem with late diagnosis, especially in the African and Caribbean heritage communities," explained Aisha.

“When we’re talking about African and Caribbean heritage communities, we aren’t just talking about two sets of people, we’re talking about various islands, various countries, different tribes and different attitudes.

“It’s not just as simple as putting up a poster or putting something on social media. We need to really make sure that we’re doing what we’re doing and we’re doing it properly. That’s the aim of Common Ambition Bristol.”

The number of HIV positive people living in Bristol is higher than the national average and has been steadily increasing since 2011.

The city’s mayor Marvin Rees has set out an ambition to reduce new HIV transmissions in the city to zero by 2030, whilst completely eradicating the stigma.

Common Ambition Bristol has been given £500,000 in funding by the Health Foundation in order for the project to be a success.

Common Ambition Bristol is being partly co-ordinated by Brigstowe, a Bristol charity that supports people living with HIV. Credit: Brigstowe

“There have been massive health inequalities within these communities for a very long time, that have been brought to light over the last year,” Aisha continued.

“Especially with the Black Lives Matter movement shining a light on inequalities, and then also being disproportionately affected by Covid. It’s having a really significant knock-on effect in our communities.

“We know there has always been a reluctance in some African and Caribbean heritage communities to somewhat engage with testing and perhaps having the worst thought about the outcome."

Aisha is keen to stress there will also be paid opportunities to get involved and empower people to make decisions about their health.

An information meeting will be held virtually on Wednesday 17 February from 6pm.

For more information, visit Brigstowe’s website.

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