Journal Mobile

R Robertson
Journal Issue: 
Volume 47: Issue 1: 2017



This story is of particular interest and importance to Edinburgh and Scottish medicine. It describes the events in one general medical practice in Edinburgh, the Muirhouse Medical Group, and their impact and relationship to the AIDS pandemic. For many, the origin of HIV in the UK is now history. Since the introduction of HIV/AIDS into the intravenous illegal drug using community, much has changed but problems remain that should concern policy makers and clinicians. Reflections on the recent history of the HIV epidemic among drug users in the UK provide important insights into risks for current policy making and the potentially problematic direction that policy has taken. Rather than starting from a pragmatic baseline of harm minimisation, with its low cost, high impact, prevention approach, the emphasis, and consequently the resources, has been on a model of recovery which fails to acknowledge the fragile control maintained by early intervention and supporting treatments.

In 2015, the re-emergence of HIV in a vulnerable inner city population of people who inject drugs highlighted a policy failure. An ongoing epidemic could and should have been prevented, as should several other recent epidemics of other viral or bacterial infections in urban populations in Scotland.

The story of HIV is full of controversy, denial, prejudice and stigma. At all levels across the world from national presidents, governments and public opinion, progress has been impeded by these problems. People using drugs have an additional set of problems: criminality, poverty and marginalisation from education and the supports of main stream society. These continue to hamper efforts to improve lives and prevent disease.