Familiar sights around Lerwick will turn red tonight to mark the 25th anniversary of World Aids Day.
Mareel, Shetland Museum and Archives, the town hall and Clickimin Broch will turn their outside lights red to show their support for the day.
The move comes as a reminder about the risks of HIV and Aids. The Scottish World Aids Day action group – a coalition of Scottish government, charities, health boards and others – say the key to keeping new infections down and making life for those with HIV as healthy as possible is to make sure everyone knows the facts.
New HIV infections have dropped significantly since the first World Aids Day in 1988. But it is estimated that 5,900 people across the country are living with HIV and 349 new people in Scotland are said to have been diagnosed with the disease in 2012 alone – close to one each day.
NHS Shetland’s public health specialist Wendy Hatrick said the illumination of the buildings was a “great message to the people of Shetland.”
“Last year work around Word Aids Day with Mareel and Klub Revolution was successful and it is hoped that this year local participation in the national campaign Light Up Scotland will catch people’s eye and raise awareness with some of our own beautiful local buildings lighting up red.”
She said there were a small number of people in Shetland diagnosed with HIV but it was not known how many are infected but have not been tested. She urged anyone who may be at risk to get a test as soon as possible.
“There is evidence that individuals are being diagnosed at a late or very late stage of infection when treatment may be less effective on a weakened immune system. This highlights the importance of HIV testing and getting people into treatment as early as possible. If HIV infection is diagnosed then there are effective drugs which mean many people live with HIV for many years, rather than dying young as we saw in the 1980s.”
Chief executive of HIV Scotland George Valiotis said: “It’s fantastic to see Shetland getting involved and showing support for World Aids Day. Simple things like turning the lights of key buildings red for World Aids Day can help remind everyone that HIV and Aids haven’t disappeared.
“This year we’re asking everyone to do one thing too: learn a fact about HIV and tell a friend. Scotland’s come a long way since the very first World AIDS Day back in 1988, with huge improvements in treatment and life-expectancy for people with HIV.
“But we still need Scots to know more about basics, to keep new infections down and to make sure people who have HIV can live free of discrimination and misconceptions.
“The facts aren’t complicated: keep yourself free of HIV by using condoms and not sharing needles; know that you can’t catch HIV from normal day-to-day contact like shaking hands or kissing, or even from a toilet seat; and while there’s no cure, when people with HIV get on effective treatment they can live long, active lives.
“One simple way to learn the basics about HIV and AIDS is to take and share the #HIVbasics quiz: www.hivscotland.com/quiz.”