1 December 2010 saw many Liberal Democrats, bloggers and others, marking World AIDS Day across the United Kingdom, including Stephen Gilbert MP, Tim Farron MP, Lynne Featherstone MP, Stephen Williams MP, Jenny Willott MP, Colin Ross, Stephen Glenn, Millennium Dome, Andrew Reeves, and myself.
Let’s have a quick look at what some of them said:
Stephen Gilbert MP
The openly gay MP for St Austell & Newquay, sent the following message:
Today is a really important day to raise awareness, raise money for HIV/AIDS, and to show our support for those with the illness.
Despite recent medical advances, HIV/AIDS remains a life-limiting illness and we still have a huge way to go to tackle it.
I urge everyone to join me today in support of the work of charities such as the Terrence Higgins Trust and RED to help those at home and across the world.
There are vigils and events around the UK to commemorate the day. LGBT Lib Dems will be present at events in Manchester, London, and elsewhere.
Stephen also tabled an Early Day Motion (EDM) in the House of Commons calling on Her Majesty’s Government to end the ban on gay and bisexual men, and their partners, being blood donors.
Stephen Gilbert said:
As an openly gay Member of Parliament, I am a passionate believer that we must end this ridiculous and situation where law is based on stigma not science. This is one important area where true equal rights still don’t exist for LGBT people and that must change.
Technological and scientific advances mean that this unsound ban just isn’t fit for the 21st Century. It’s time to reviewed this outdated legislation and allow science and common sense to prevail.
The text of the EDM reads:
That this House notes with concern that men who are openly gay or bisexual are barred for life from donating blood; further notes that the regulations which call for this life ban have been in place since the 1980s in response to the HIV pandemic and have not been updated since, despite greater understanding of the disease; further notes that New Zealand, Spain, Italy, Japan and Australia currently allow gay and bisexual men to give blood; believes that policy on blood donation, individual exclusion and time limits thereupon should be based on science not stigma; and calls on the Government to introduce an evidence-based approach to allow as many people as possible, regardless of their sexuality, safely to donate blood.
Please write to your MP to ask them to sign this EDM to highlight and support this important issue.
Lynne Featherstone MP
Minister for Equalities has made a video…
She has asked that everyone takes the ‘Count Me In’ Pledge.
I will know my HIV status,
I will not assume I know someone else’s HIV status,
I will take personal responsibility for using condoms,
I will value myself and my health and,
I will stay informed about HIV and how it is spread.
Stephen Williams MP
MP for Bristol West said:
Like millions of people around the world, I am wearing my red ribbon for World Aids Day. Over the last 6 years I have worked with a variety of Aids related charities, most notably the Terrance Higgins Trust, on several HIV issues both in Bristol and in Westminster.
I have constantly spoken up for the need for proper sex and relationships education in schools, for affordable anti-retro viral drugs for Africa and for access for treatment for asylum seekers in Britain.
Today I used the rare opportunity of a question to the Prime Minister to ask David Cameron about the coalition government’s plans to combat HIV. The answer is that we are doing a lot, at home and abroad. Yesterday’s launch of the Public Health White Paper signals a new approach to public health, often the cinderella of the NHS. And abroad, we will be the first major country to hit 0.7% of GDP on overseas aid, much of which will benefit public health programmes in the developing world.
Jenny Willott MP
from Cardiff Central
spoke in the debate on HIV in Westminster Hall organised by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on HIV and AIDS. She asked:
I have just had a baby and I was tested automatically for HIV during my pregnancy. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that extending such automatic testing could play a valuable role in identifying cases very early so that people can receive the treatment that, as he said, will not only help them with their own medical needs, but prevent them from spreading the condition?
and later on in the debate she said:
Will the hon. Gentleman also suggest that we need to tackle the stereotypes about the kind of person who might have HIV? That is one issue for people who do not go to their doctor, or who do go but whose GP does not pick up on it. As Pauline Latham mentioned earlier, GPs may not think that a middle-aged, heterosexual white woman is likely to be HIV-positive. We need to tackle those stereotypes.
Incoming Liberal Democrat party president,
Tim Farron MP
boarded the Stop AIDS Campaign bus outside Parliament this week to show his support for the effort to bring an end to children being born with HIV by 2015.
Commenting afterwards, Tim said:
It is important we mark World AIDS Day however we can. Last year 400,000 babies were born with HIV or contracted it through their mother’s breast milk. But there are simple and affordable medicines to prevent this. We’re asking the Government to support the campaign for an AIDS-free generation born in 2015.
The Global Fund for AIDS, TB and Malaria has saved nearly six million lives since its creation in 2002 and if fully funded, could ensure virtually all babies are born HIV free by 2015.
Diarmaid McDonald, Coordinator of the Stop AIDS Campaign said,
The UK could lead the world in ending children being born with HIV by 2015. By giving its fair share to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria the government could make this incredible goal possible. I’m delighted by Tim’s support for our campaign.
Michael Carchrie Campbell
Here in Northern Ireland, I came out on my other blog Gyronny Herald as a person living with HIV.
I gave the example of how one person can start to help to break the stigma of living with HIV.
Unsurprisingly given my job and other interests, I was at a political conference a few weeks ago. I was talking to a friend, who was also in attendance. He was asking what I was doing with my life, I told him that I was still working for my boss two days a week. He asked what I did the rest of the time.
“I help out down at The HIV Support Centre in Belfast. I’m a Trustee there.”
“Is there much need of that, here?”
“Well, going on last year’s figures, there are about two people diagnosed in Belfast each week.”
“Do you know anyone living with HIV?”
“No, I don’t.”
I stretched out my hand, he shook it, and I said,
“Hello, my name’s Michael, and I am living with HIV – you do now.”
My friend was rather stumped for words. But he then asked about how I was coping, and he said that I looked really well, and that I was coping well.
Here in Northern Ireland one of the best ways that you can support people living with HIV is by supporting our own local HIV-specific charity, The HIV Support Centre, which is based in Belfast. As a trustee and as a client there I know the work that they do is vital. Many have gone there when they think all is lost, when they think that their lives are over, and the staff and clients there help to turn them around, set them back on the road to better health, and to sorting out their own mental health when they learn the often devastating news that they are HIV positive.
If you would like to be support The HIV Support Centre, I know that they welcome donations not only of money, but of time, as well. Please visit their website to see how you can make a difference.