Northern Ireland is not that large, yet we have had many, many different systems for record-keeping within the Health & Social Care system. Historically, each hospital had slightly differing forms, and of course each hospital had its own number for you as well as a record of your health while there. To me, in a country the size of Northern Ireland this is sheer madness. It could be that one consultant in one hospital did not know what another consultant in another hospital was prescribing, or even what he thought was wrong with you.

All this seems set to change, as the Northern Ireland Electronic Care Record system is being launched today. According to the website,

No matter where you are being treated or cared for in the HSC, your information should be available, as needed, by those looking after you.

NIECR is a record system for all of Northern Ireland that will pull together key details about your care from existing HSC systems and make them available to authorized staff in your care team wherever you are being looked after, providing your history at a glance.

This will help us make sure your care is

  • Safer
  • Faster
  • Better

I wonder however, and will be writing to ask, whether the records from the HIV clinic at Belfast’s Royal Victoria Hospital will be able to be seen by other health professionals.

Imagine the scene, you are in a car crash, you get to hospital in another part of the Province, and are unable to talk. You have identity documents that help the doctors providing your care to find your record on the new system: but if the fact that you are HIV positive is not there (as this information is not shared with your GP – or the HIV clinic record is not linked) there may be a problem with you getting your medication. Now, the critical care is that you are able to be patched up, but those of us living with HIV know that if we do not get our medication regularly the particular strain of HIV that is within us can become resistant to drugs – and that is bad and can cause major problems in the future of your care.

All of this is making me continue to think that encouraging people living with HIV to step up, take some courage, and let your GP know. Your GP can really only help with your general healthcare if he or she knows exactly what else is going on in your life.

I keep hearing about the stigma that surrounds living with HIV. In the past we had similar problems in society surrounding cancer, diabetes, and many other conditions. Society has moved on, and let us all take a small step in taking ownership of your life and your HIV. I know that it is not as easy for everyone as it seems to be for me and a few other people around the UK and the world to let the general public know about living with HIV. But, when MPs, MLAs, as well as everyone else in the population doesn’t know about the people who are HIV+ in their community, it will continue to be a virus that affects other societies.

HIV affects people in the community in which we all live. Can we please stop trying to brush it under the carpet?