A researcher who has dedicated his career to eliminating HIV within ethnic minority groups has been recognised with a prestigious accolade that will be presented at the House of Lords.
Professor Rusi Jaspal, Pro Vice Chancellor for Research and Professor of Psychology and Sexual Health at De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) has been awarded a ‘Ten out of Ten Award' for making an “unforgettable mark in the fight against HIV”.
Professor Jaspal is one of 10 game-changers recognised by the Countdown to Zero Partnership, which supports the United Nations' target of ending all new HIV diagnoses by 2030. The winners have each been praised for providing a blueprint for the action required to meet the target.
One of the partners involved is Naz Project London; a charity delivering sexual health services to minority communities.
The charity’s CEO Marion Wadibia said: “This is a moment for us to honour our heroes for their long service to the HIV sector and to recognise that the very same minority communities who have been so negatively impacted by HIV, have also provided the strategic leadership, research and action needed to end HIV.”
Professor Jaspal, a Chartered Psychologist and Fellow of the British Psychological Society, has been working in the field of HIV research for the last decade.
“My work is about ensuring that ethnic minority groups are visible and that they are not left behind in the fight against HIV,” he said.
“Gay people from Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds have a much higher risk of HIV infection but unfortunately there is still also a lot of stigma attached to the condition in these communities. These groups are therefore often difficult to access, so prevention can be complex.”
Professor Jaspal has conducted a series of ground-breaking research projects, including laboratory experiments and in-depth interviews with HIV patients and with doctors, to understand why people take risks and how we can intervene to prevent HIV.
“I want our magnificent NHS to be even more agile and responsive to the needs of our diverse communities,” continued Professor Jaspal.
“I want to make HIV prevention and care more accessible to BAME gay people. My work is about creating ways to predict who is going to take a health risk so that we can intervene beforehand.”
Professor Jaspal is an active member of the HIV research community, regularly attending conferences and workshops around the world to share his research.
In April last year he gave a keynote speech on integrating psychology in HIV care at the British HIV Association’s 25th Annual Conference, while in August this year, he was invited to talk about the role of social psychology in HIV prevention at the British Psychological Society Social Psychology Section Annual Conference.
He also helped shape the Official Guidelines for Treatment of Transgender Patients by the British Association for Sexual Health and HIV.
“It’s really heartening to see the enormous advances in medicine in HIV, which means that we now possess the tools to prevent HIV and to treat it effectively,” he said. “Yet the full benefits of this can only be realised if people understand their risk, modify their behaviour, and engage with healthcare. This is where psychology comes in.
“This area of research is absolutely consistent with the values of DMU as an institution. We are committed to social inclusion – it is part of our ethos and overlaps with our role as a global hub for the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.”
In 2018 DMU was chosen by the UN’s Academic Impact group as a ‘designated hub’ for SDG number 16, which aims to ‘promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels’.
There are 17 SDGs in total, addressing global challenges such as hunger, health, education, climate change and social justice, aiming to ensure all people enjoy peace and prosperity by 2030.
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“I passionately believe that our goal of no more new HIV transmissions by 2030 is absolutely achievable,” said Professor Jaspal. “The biggest barrier to achieving this, however, is the stigma that is still attached to HIV. We are still too afraid to acknowledge HIV in our communities and therefore are slow to act – we need to get better at talking about these issues.”
BAME communities in the UK continue to be negatively impacted by HIV:
- Eight out of 10 women accessing HIV care in the UK are from BAME communities.
- 58% of Black Africans were diagnosed at a late stage of HIV infection in 2017, compared to 43% of the overall population. People diagnosed late remain at high risk of death in the first year of diagnosis.
- 40% of BAME people living with HIV sometimes or often go short of food, compared to 23% of non-BAME.
The Ten out of Ten awards will be hosted by Baroness Liz Barker, a long-standing member of the All Party Parliamentary working group on HIV/AIDS.
Central to the recognition of the winners is the unveiling of a series of portraits of the honourees. The photographs, unveiled at the House of Lords, will appear at different venues across London to amplify the work of the honourees and to enable a conversation about what it means to live as part of the global majority in this country, and to be disproportionately impacted by HIV.
“It is tremendously rewarding to be recognised as a game-changer in this field,” added Professor Jaspal. “I intend to use the conferment of this award as a platform to raise further awareness of HIV.”
The official Ten out of Ten awards ceremony will take place on Saturday 7 September 2019.
Posted on Thursday 29th August 2019