The Eyes Open Steering Group was established in the North-East of England in 2003 as a way of regionally pooling resources to widen and strengthen the impact of work at both local and regional levels regarding HIV/AIDS, the objectives of Eyes Open are:
- To guide the delivery of educational initiatives.
- To develop community events to raise awareness in the general population.
- To co-operate and work with individuals, voluntary organisations, and statutory authorities to raise awareness, increase understanding, and reduce onward transmission.
In 2021 the areas involved in the Eyes Open Steering Group are:
- Newcastle: staff from the NHS and Newcastle City Council.
- North Tyneside: staff from the NHS
- Northumberland: staff from the NHS and Northumbria County Council.
- Cumbria: staff from the NHS.
- Blue Sky Trust, charity for people living with HIV Cumbria and the North-East region.
- Together We Can Fundraising Limited: support with raising money for the campaign, also some staff members are also living with HIV, based in Cumbria.
- 14 committee members.
- 35% of people on the committee are living with HIV.
In 2019, it was estimated that there were 105,200 people living with HIV in the UK. 94% of these people were diagnosed, and therefore know that they have HIV. This means that around 1 in 16 people living with HIV in the UK do not know that they have the virus. 98% of people diagnosed with HIV in the UK are on treatment, and 97% of those on treatment are virally suppressed which means they can’t pass the virus on. Of all the people living with HIV in the UK, 89% are virally suppressed.
In the UK we now have medications that can treat HIV, which allows people to live a near normal life expectancy, which is so different to the life expectancy people were told in the 80’s and early 90’s, but still today there is a lot of ignorance, stigma and discrimination towards people living with HIV.
If a person adheres to HIV medication, the virus in the blood reduces to undetectable levels. We can now say with complete confidence that people, living with HIV and on effective treatment, can no longer pass on HIV to others, even when sex is unprotected. This is called U=U which stands for Undetectable = Untransmittable. An awareness campaign has been running for a number of years now, but still the message hasn’t got to everyone, for more info please visit: https://www.tht.org.uk/our-work/our-campaigns/cant-pass-it-on
We are supporting the campaign, and on October 20th 2021, Eyes Open are organising a U=U Day to celebrate this. The U=U Day and following marketing campaign will give us an opportunity to raise awareness, get people talking and educate more people about what U=U means today for people living with HIV and use the campaign and this knowledge to finally remove the stigma and discrimination surrounding HIV that still exist today.
- U=U Day – 20th October 2021.
- The campaign will run from the North-East and Cumbrian regions; we will also be promoting the campaign online to reach as many people as we can in the UK and worldwide.
- 8 Week Advertising campaign on Pride Radio & social media platforms
- 2 Week Advertising campaign on Metro Radio & social media platforms
- 2 Week Advertising campaign on Cumbria FM & social media platforms
- NHS & Local Authority Comms Teams across Newcastle, North Tyneside, Northumberland & Cumbria
- Community U = U Campaign displays
- Eyes Open, Blue Sky Trust & Together We Can web-sites & social media platforms
- Our aim is for other UK regions to get involved with our U=U Day from 2022 to make it a national day to celebrate and remember.
- It will work alongside World Aids Day on the 1st December 2021.
Our project brings people together through the passion and experience of the team to develop wide-ranging actions that will:
- Raise awareness of HIV in the community including the U=U message.
- Breakdown stigma and discrimination associated with HIV – myths and truths.
- Develop the confidence and skills of the HIV+ community to make a difference to perceptions of HIV in society.
- Bringing a whole community together: schools, community groups, people living with HIV, volunteers and individuals in the North-East and Cumbria region.
- Support the Government campaign to end all new HIV transmissions by 2030 – https://www.tht.org.uk/news/uk-government-commit-ending-new-hiv-transmissions-england-2030