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From passion to action: A conversation with HIV GP Champion Dr Rebecca Hall

In honour of International Women’s Day this year, we spoke with HIV GP Champion, Dr Rebecca Hall, who is a GP at Guy’s and St Thomas’ hospital.

Why did you become a HIV GP champion and what do you hope to achieve?

I became a HIV GP champion as I have been passionate about improving HIV testing and care for the last 14 years as a doctor.  My main aim is to normalise HIV testing in primary care with an opt-out approach, support the PrEP campaign in primary care by identifying and signposting those who may benefit (particularly women) and also ensuring primary care staff are skilled in treatment of HIV as a long-term condition.

What interested you about improving HIV care for people in your area?

I live and work in the area with highest prevalence of people living with HIV in the UK yet it was apparent that there was a lot of misinformation regarding HIV amongst medical professionals. Despite HIV being a treatable long-term health condition, there is a lack of awareness, training and communication skills amongst colleagues as well as some fear.  Concerningly, these unmet (and sometime unknown) needs of clinicians have resulted in patients not being tested and treated and has often perpetuated ongoing stigma particularly in primary care and I wanted to address this.  Slowly, we have been breaking down these barriers but still more needs to be done.

In your role as a GP, how do you promote inclusivity and diversity within your practice to ensure that all patients feel welcome and understood, regardless of their gender or identity?

Being mixed raced and raised in a single parent family, I was aware from an early age on the impact of gender and race.  I saw examples within my own family within healthcare where people had been stereotyped, not heard, or being denied treatment, resulting in widening health inequalities.  Also, I was aware of the importance of the health of a mother as one of the most important outcomes for the wellbeing of family. This has led me to a career in inclusion health ­­and I feel privileged to be in a team that has resources and time to support vulnerable people from a variety of backgrounds in accessing healthcare. For example, in our team we do outreach, have a supportive registration process, use translators, take a generalised and open approach with neutral language and use patient feedback.

International Women’s Day encourages us to celebrate women’s achievements. Can you share a moment in your career or personal life where you felt especially proud to be a woman?

What makes me proud of being a woman is reflecting of the lives of the strong women I have I had the privilege of being in my life – my mother and my grandmas. All defied the social gender boundaries placed on them to have great careers, while bringing up children and grandchildren and inspiring and supporting other women to achieve this too. When I was given a nursing outfit aged five (as the doctor outfits were only made for boys), they told me that I did not have to fit into any gender stereotyped role and I could be whatever I wanted.

If you could send a message of solidarity and empowerment to women around the world this International Women’s Day, what would it be?

Regardless of our backgrounds and roles, let us celebrate together our unique stories of being women and the strength, resilience and determination we have.  Let our collaboration and collectiveness inspire and support each other and the next generation for a more diverse and gender equal world.

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