‘It’s A Sin’ landed on screens on the 22nd of January and wrapped up on the 19th February on Channel 4. The series follows a group of teenagers in London, throughout the 1980s into the early 1990s. These young people come from different backgrounds, with very different families and have very different aspirations for their futures.
There is one thing they share in common - an LGBTQI+ identity, with other characters expressing themselves as allies. Unknown to these youngsters, there is a deadly disease emerging around the world, mostly affecting large numbers of the LGBTQI+ community.
The characters in the T.V. show are living their new lives in London, away from their families, similar to what most young adults aspire to do. We see the HIV/AIDS crisis wreak havoc and how the consequences shape their lives. The characters lose friends and family throughout the 10 years, the exact same way the epidemic took so many lives during the time, devastating families and friends of the victims all over the world.
If you live in the UK or the ROI you can watch the drama series here; https://www.channel4.com/programmes/its-a-sin
'It’s a Sin' is a harsh, but solemn reminder of the deathly AIDS crisis in the 1980s and the 1990s. What is the situation of the HIV/AIDS epidemic today in 2021, and how do people who are positive deal with being a carrier of HIV/AIDS?
Firstly, what is HIV? The acronym stands for ‘Human Immunodeficiency Virus’, which means that the virus attacks the Immune system and weakens it over time without treatment. This puts HIV positive people at higher risk of catching diseases, infections and other illnesses like cancer.
At one stage HIV/AIDS was considered a pandemic, much like COVID-19, but was branded as a ‘gay disease’ which prevented help and funding being provided to research and treatment of the virus. Harsh criticisms have been held against former US President Ronald Reagan and former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher for being negligent during the crisis.
The Statistics of HIV carriers is a staggering 38 million as of 2019, with 36.2 million adults carrying the virus and 1.8 million children under 15 years old. In 2019, 1.7 million people were infected with HIV, a 23% decline in infections since 2010. Deaths from HIV/AIDS have declined 60% since a peak in 2004 and fell to 690,000 in 2019 from 1.1 million in 2010.
The reality is, HIV has ruined many lives and the severity of it is astounding. HIV has impacted low and middle income countries the worst, especially in Africa with countries still spiralling after colonialism. The reason why Africa holds the highest amount of cases in the world is because of issues like sanitation, access to practices of safe sex, access to life-saving treatments and just basic education and information on HIV.
The ‘developed’ world certainly holds an obligation to provide assistance to the people of the countries from which it grew its wealth, by reaping and manipulating their resources over many decades. The United States has committed more resources than any other nation to date in suppressing the spread/ transmission of HIV/AIDS.
If you’re living with HIV, what does this mean? When you are first diagnosed with HIV, you will be examined and provided with the toll that HIV has taken on your immune system and what treatment is available to you. People are offered access to antiretroviral medication to strengthen their immune system and protect you from the virus. The medication is highly effective and allows HIV positive people to live full and healthy lives, as if they did not have the disease.
The medications and treatment also makes the virus undetectable in your blood and can also prevent you from passing the virus onto somebody else. AIDS is the term given when HIV is untreated, and your immune system has dipped below a certain count to the point that the virus has done a lot of damage to your body.
What can you do to protect yourself from becoming exposed to HIV? Always practice safe sex, and if you regularly have sex you should be tested on a regular basis. If you are a drug user, never share needles or other injecting equipment. If you believe you have been exposed to HIV, you can access post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) at your nearest STI clinic or at your nearest Hospital Emergency Department.
Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PREP) is a drug that is taken by HIV negative people to prevent them from becoming HIV positive. This is another safeguard you can use as well as well as protection such as Condoms. PREP is currently unavailable through the HSE and Covid-19 has taken a huge toll on the services used to protect people from the transmission of HIV.
Please consult https://sexualwellbeing.ie/sexual-health/sexually-transmitted-infections/types-of-stis/hiv.html for transparent and useful information on HIV in Ireland. You can also contact your GP for STI testing and other information on Sexually Transmitted Diseases.
In Ireland about 6,000 people are estimated to be living with HIV, with about 400-500 people testing positive every year. According to HIV Ireland in 2018, 5 people died with the cause being HIV/AIDS but deaths are a very rare case in Ireland. 56% of the cases in 2018 were among men who have sex with men, 31% among heterosexual people and 3% belonged to people who inject drugs. If you are transgender you are also more likely to be at risk to HIV than people who are cisgender.
If you are looking to be tested for HIV, please visit www.hivireland.ie and they will provide you with the clinics that are open during the COVID-19 pandemic, advice and help for those who are questioning their sexual wellbeing. You can also simply access private services for a higher cost. It is so important to get tested for yourself, and for those around you. Looking after your sexual health and wellbeing is healthy and normal.
Here is a form below that provides vital information for people living with HIV in Ireland: