A major three-year-project is to launch in Bristol to work with people of African and Caribbean heritage to increase HIV testing and awareness and reduce the stigma of the virus.
The project has been awarded a £483,697 Common Ambition Grant from The Health Foundation with the aim of reducing HIV health inequalities experienced by people of African and Caribbean heritage living in Bristol and the surrounding area. The Sexual Health Improvement Health Integration Team (SHIP HIT) have been involved in the funding application and will be supporting the project role out.
The results achieved by this project will help Bristol achieve the goals set out by the global Fast Track Cities partnership which Bristol Mayor Marvin Rees signed up to in November 2019. These are to reduce new HIV transmissions in the city to zero by 2030, whilst at the same time eradicating HIV stigma.
The project will be run by Brigstowe, a Bristol-based charity for people living with HIV, in partnership with African Voices Forum, the NHS-led Unity Sexual Health, Bristol City Council and Fast Track Cities Bristol. Researchers from the University of Bristol (NIHR Applied Research Collaboration West [ARC West] and NIHR Health Protection Research Unit [HPRU] in Behavioural Science and Evaluation) will work in collaboration with community members to evaluate the project.
In Bristol, 2.7 people out of 1,000 aged between 15 and 59 are living with HIV. The rate has been steadily increasing since 2011 and is higher than the average for England (2.4 per 1,000 people).
Last year, an HIV Health Needs Assessment in Bristol found there was a disproportionate number of people of African and Caribbean heritage with undiagnosed HIV, late HIV diagnosis associated with poor health outcomes, and experiencing stigma which results in a lower uptake of HIV or other sexual health services.
Now the Common Ambition Bristol project will see health care professionals and researchers work in co-production with African and Caribbean communities in Bristol and the surrounding area to introduce ways to increase the uptake of HIV testing and broader sexual health services. They will also aim to reduce late HIV diagnosis and stigma in these communities in the area.
The project will run from January 2021 until December 2023 and will support people who, to date, have had limited voice and power to make decisions about their communities’ specific sexual health needs.
Dr Katy Turner, co-director of the Bristol Health Partners Sexual Health Improvement Programme Health Integration Team (SHIP HIT), said: “I’m really excited to be a part of this fantastic team to address health inequalities experienced by people of African and Caribbean heritage and make a real difference to our local community.”
Rami Ghali, chief executive officer of Brigstowe, said: “Brigstowe are excited about the opportunity to lead this strong partnership. The heart of Common Ambition Bristol is about genuine co-production and learning – we’re looking forward to working closely with African and Caribbean communities to find the best ways to increase HIV testing and reduce HIV stigma. We’ll be recruiting a diverse team of paid African and Caribbean community members to help us develop and test new approaches.”
David Dravie-John, vice chair of the African Voices Forum, said: “The African Voices Forum (AVF) Ltd, an umbrella organisation for 16 local community associations in Bristol, is delighted to be part of this wonderful partnership project, 'Common Ambition Bristol', that will address the inequalities faced by African and Caribbean heritage communities on the transmission of HIV, knowledge of HIV, HIV stigma, HIV testing and uptake of treatment.”
Dr Lindsey Harryman, a consultant in genitourinary medicine at Unity Sexual Health which is led by University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS Foundation Trust (UHBW), said: “This is a fantastic opportunity to work with our partners in a completely new way to sustainably improve our NHS sexual health services with and for people of African and Caribbean heritage and to reduce the long-standing stigma around these issues. We look forward to sharing the learning from this project to both enable UHBW to improve other areas of healthcare for people of African and Caribbean heritage in Bristol and also to inform other sexual health services nationally to address issues of sexual health service delivery and stigma.”
Councillor Asher Craig, Deputy Mayor of Bristol, added: “As part of the global Fast Track Cities Initiative, Bristol is committed to ending HIV transmissions and the persistent inequalities experienced by some groups.
“If you truly want to work for communities then you have to work with communities. Being awarded this grant is such an important step for our partnership as we work alongside people of African and Caribbean heritage, looking at how best to achieve these goals.”
Dr Jeremy Horwood, associate professor of social sciences and health at the University of Bristol/NIHR HPRU in Behavioural Science and Evaluation/NIHR ARC West, said: “We know that there are barriers to accessing HIV and sexual health services for some groups. In this pioneering project the NHS will co-produce sexual health services in equal partnership with people of African and Caribbean heritage to develop sustainable interventions to address these inequalities.”
Common Ambition Bristol is one of four projects selected by the Health Foundation, an independent charity, to be part of its new £2.1 million programme for partnerships developing collaborative communities where people, families, health care professionals and researchers work together to improve health care.
The ‘Common Ambition’ programme is supporting four teams with grants of between £300,000 and £500,000. Each project will run for between two and three years.
Each team is a partnership between the voluntary and community sector and the NHS, and will work to build sustainable change in healthcare through collaboration between those who use services and those who deliver them.
Laura Semple, assistant director of improvement programmes at the Health Foundation, said: “We are pleased to be able to support these partnerships to make improvements to health care services that are driven by members of the public working collaboratively with health care professionals.
“Voluntary and community sector organisations are vital to this type of collaboration because of their ability to harness the knowledge and skills in the community.”