World AIDS Day: reflections from Mark Santos, Director of Positive East

This World AIDS Day Mark Santos, Director of east London’s HIV charity Positive East, talks about their ongoing work to meet the challenges that HIV still presents our communities.

World AIDS Day provides a point of reflection in the year. An opportunity to take a step back and an opportunity to remember. Remember the far too many people that have lost their lives to HIV over the years. 

An opportunity to renew our solidarity with people that are struggling to live well with HIV. People whose situations are exacerbated by poverty, poor housing, poor mental health, physical disabilities, long term conditions and the challenge that HIV stigma still presents. 

It is also a time to reflect on hope. Hope for a better future which the great news we are seeing makes possible. 

The great news is that HIV diagnoses continue to decrease year on year. It is a scientific fact that undetectable HIV means untransmittable HIV – if you have an undetectable viral load then you cannot pass HIV onto your sexual partners. London and the UK exceeds the UN targets of 90:90:90 – 90% people living with HIV know their status, and of those people 90% are receiving HIV medications and 90% have an undetectable viral load.  

We also know that despite the good news we are not done yet. The possibility of the end of the onward transmission of HIV in the UK is in sight, however we still have a journey to travel. There are still too many people struggling to live well with HIV, too many people remain undiagnosed and still too many being diagnosed late. And not all communities are benefiting from the success we are seeing.

Positive East is east London’s HIV Charity that works closely with the NHS in north east London. Based in Stepney but operating across north east London, we provide information, advice, peer support, counselling, specialist psychology, health and wellbeing workshops for people living with HIV. 

We believe that the only success over HIV is an inclusive one. We undertake outreach and engagement with communities affected by HIV because we know living with HIV can impact on people’s health and wellbeing in many different ways and affects people differently in different communities.

For example our Re:Assure project is a dedicated project for refugee, asylum-seeking or migrant women who are living with HIV and who have experienced traumatic events. The project has, and continues to, support women on their journey in overcoming traumatic experiences through group work on relationships, coping strategies and confidence and through individual therapy sessions.

We also run HIV and STI screening and you can reach us by telephone 020 7791 2855, email, and find more information on our website 

Positive East and ELHCP are partners of the London Fast-Track Cities initiative, a global movement to end HIV by 2030.

We know that to get London to zero new cases of HIV, zero preventable deaths and 100 per cent of people living well, we must fight stigma. Read more about our joint anti-stigma work.