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Launching Common Ambition Bristol - working with African and Caribbean heritage communities to reduce HIV stigma and infections

Last updated: 14/06/2022

A major community-powered project in Bristol is set to launch an outreach programme to address HIV stigma and increase testing among people of African and Caribbean heritage.

Common Ambition Bristol brings together people of African and Caribbean heritage, working in equal partnership with healthcare professionals to develop new ways of increasing HIV awareness, encourage more people to get tested and tackle the stigma associated with HIV.

Common Ambition Bristol has launched an exciting programme of initiatives that include:

  • A new, myth busting website developed by people of African and Caribbean heritage that talks about HIV, how to test for it and more - https://commonambitionbristol.org.uk
  • Bristol's only dedicated sexual health drop-in clinic for African and Caribbean heritage communities, based at Charlotte Keel health centre
  • Wellbeing sessions to learn about sexual health, relationships, and new ways of preventing HIV
  • Working with local barbers to share knowledge about HIV
  • Partnership with local community events to increase HIV awareness and knowledge 

Common Ambition Bristol is a three-year project led by Brigstowe, a Bristol-based charity for people living with HIV, and the African Voices Forum, an umbrella organisation for 16 local community associations in Bristol. They are working in equal partnership with African and Caribbean heritage communities, healthcare professionals from Unity Sexual Health and public health teams from Bristol City Council. Together, they are introducing new ways to reduce the stigma around sexual health and increase the number of people from these communities getting tested for HIV.

Common Ambition Bristol aims to enable people to make decisions about the sexual health needs of their community. In the past, these people’s voices and influence to make decisions around sexual health services have generally been limited.

The project has been shortlisted in the National Diversity Awards in the Community Organisation Award for Race, Religion and Faith.

Researchers from the University of Bristol (National Institute for Health and Care Research Applied Research Collaboration West [NIHR ARC West] and NIHR Health Protection Research Unit [HPRU] in Behavioural Science and Evaluation) are working together with community members to evaluate the project.

The results 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. The partnership aims to reduce new HIV transmissions in the city to zero by 2030 while also working to eradicate the stigma associated with HIV.

In Bristol, 2.4 people out of 1,000 aged between 15 and 59 are living with HIV. This rate is higher than the average for England.

Aisha-monic Namurach, Common Ambition Bristol project coordinator, said: “To be involved in such a ground-breaking project in a city that not only expects change when it comes to inequalities but demands it is inspiring. Our co-production project has one of the most invaluable partners and that is the people of Bristol. Common Ambition Bristol has been built with people for the people. It's important to us that African and Caribbean heritage communities are no longer left behind, that we as a community are in fact included, valued, empowered and celebrated. We have work to do in our communities when it comes to HIV and stigma particularly, but we are also well placed to effect change.”

Rami Ghali, chief executive officer of Brigstowe, said: “Brigstowe are excited about leading this strong partnership. The heart of Common Ambition Bristol is about genuine co-production and learning and working closely with African and Caribbean communities to find the best ways to increase HIV testing and reduce HIV stigma.”

David Dravie-John, vice chair of the African Voices Forum, said: “The African Voices Forum are delighted to be part of this wonderful partnership project, 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.”

Marvin Rees, Mayor of Bristol, added: “As part of the global Fast Track Cities Initiative, we are committed to reduce new HIV transmissions in the city to zero by 2030. We are doing that by creating genuine partnerships to end persistent HIV inequalities and health outcomes across communities. Common Ambition Bristol is a vital project that will put the experiences and insights of Bristol’s African and Caribbean communities at the forefront of this work. I encourage people to get involved and support this important work.”

Jeremy Horwood, Professor of Social Sciences and Applied Health Research at the University of Bristol and co-director of Bristol Health Partners’ Sexual Health Improvement Programme Health Integration Team (SHIP HIT), said: “We know that there are barriers to accessing HIV and sexual health services for some groups. In this pioneering project the NHS has co-produced sexual health services in equal partnership with people of African and Caribbean heritage to make a real difference to our local community.”

Common Ambition Bristol is one of four projects selected by the Health Foundation, an independent charity, to be part of a £2.1 million programme for partnerships between the voluntary and community sector and the NHS to build sustainable change in healthcare through collaboration between those who use services and those who deliver them.