It’s a cliché, but the best way to describe my time as CEO is by saying it’s been a rollercoaster ride. The charity has made incredible progress in the last seven years but that doesn’t mean there haven’t been significant challenges along the way, including, of course, the COVID-19 pandemic, which hit three years ago and forced us to completely re-evaluate how we do almost everything we do.
But for the good times and the bad, what I’ve enjoyed most is being part of the wonderful, idiosyncratic team at Terrence Higgins Trust. I’ve worked with so many incredible, passionate people who constantly surprise me with their creativity and passion to get things done — including people who are also living with HIV who see this work as a vocation more than anything else and as well as those who have experienced wider sexual health inequalities. They understand the work and why it matters so dearly — they’ve skin in the game.
I’ve also developed some life-long friendships with those in the wider HIV and sexual health sector. When I came into the post, some of the charity’s relationships weren’t in the best state. I hope I have helped shift perceptions of Terrence Higgins Trust slowly but surely. And that’s crucial because all of us in the HIV response and working in sexual health need to be firing on all cylinders (and not duplicating work) to meet our life-changing goals.
Then there are the academics, researchers and clinicians who have driven forward all of the medical progress in HIV, which has saved my life and transformed HIV into a good news story for us to take out into communities.
If I had to pick my three proudest moments, I would choose:
2. The joint HIV Commission (with partners National AIDS Trust and Elton John AIDS Foundation) established a clear blueprint for ending new HIV cases in the UK by 2030 and addressing stark inequalities. The Government has committed to that challenge and we’re holding its feet to the fire every step of the way on its HIV Action Plan.
3. Committing to Terrence Higgins Trust being an anti-racist, anti-sexist organisation and working with inspiring colleagues to make that happen. George Floyd’s murder sent shockwaves through the world and real change had to happen. We listened to our colleagues’ unacceptable experiences in the workplace and are now on our journey to creating a Terrence Higgins Trust that works for everyone.
Looking to the future, I’m thrilled that Richard Angell is taking over as Chief Executive without any gap to ensure there’s no let-up in achieving our mission. Richard has made a huge impact in his previous roles at Terrence Higgins Trust and do not doubt that he’ll do that again in this CEO hot seat. We’ve already had some brilliant conversations to pass on the mantle and I’m looking forward to watching and cheering on from the sidelines. And, of course, he’s supported by many other brilliant leaders across the organisation.
However, whenever I left, I knew there would be unfinished business. And I know the team at Terrence Higgins Trust is going to keep a razor-life focus on the goal of ending new HIV cases by the 2030 deadline. That there’s a strong drive to ensure sexual and reproductive health is firmly on the agenda. And that the abhorrent stigma still surrounding HIV is tackled through education and engagement. Because HIV stigma in 2023 is still having a huge impact on people’s lives, relationships and mental health.
And I’m committed to continuing to bang the drum and doing my bit. Because, as someone living with HIV, this has never been just ‘a job’.
Thank you to everyone for your good wishes, support and friendship. As I’ve already said, it truly has been the privilege of my lifetime.
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