Kemptown MP discloses his HIV status to help tackle stigma

Besi Besemar December 1, 2018

In a speech to the Commons ahead of World Aids Day on Saturday, December 1, Lloyd Russell-Moyle, MP for Brighton Kemptown and Peacehaven discloses his HIV status in a bid to tackle the stigma still associated with the condition.

THE Labour MP has become only the second parliamentarian ever to reveal his HIV status, the other being Baron Chris Smith, the UK’s first openly gay MP when he entered the Commons in 1983, who announced he was HIV positive a few months before leaving parliament in 2005.

A former Brighton Counsellor before being elected to parliament in the 2017 election, Russell-Moyle told the Commons he had been HIV positive for 10 years, since he was 22.

He said: “This Saturday, December 1 will mark the 30th Anniversary of World AIDS day, and next year it will be ten years since I became HIV positive. I was 22 years old, and diagnosed early. Since then I have been on world-class treatment provided by the NHS – so I have not only survived, I’ve prospered, and any partner I have is safe and protected.

“I am leading this debate today because we are in many ways at a juncture in the fight against HIV and Aids. We could be more vocal, more ambitious, more determined to eradicate the disease in the UK. Or, we could go in the direction of the government, which is putting our hard-fought progress at risk.

“The disease is still deeply misunderstood. Etched into much of the public’s memory as a death sentence, HIV conjures images of gravestones and a life marked by tragedy.

“The reality is that today, the prognosis is wildly different to what it was when it was bought to the public’s attention. If treated, someone who is HIV positive, like myself, can expect to live a long and full life with little to no side-effects from the drugs regime.

“I hope that my coming out serves to defy the stigma around the disease. I hope that more people will understand that effective treatment keeps people who are HIV positive healthy, and it protects their partners. That my story might encourage others to get tested and ultimately begin their treatment earlier on.”

After the speech he said: “My announcement today will come as a surprise for many across the country. I have been asked if I am worried about the public’s reaction, or whether my constituency will be supportive. Those people clearly do not know Brighton.

“It is a privilege to represent one of the most dynamic, forward thinking and accepting communities in the country. My decision to make public, this very private aspect of my life was because of the ground-breaking organisations in my constituency who moved me to do so.

“The pride they have in their work and their unique bravery is something which I looked to and was directly inspired by. We are leading in Brighton, not just nationally on HIV & AIDS research and treatment but internationally. The Sussex Beacon, Lunch Positive, The Martin Fisher Foundation are just a few examples of exceptional treatment and support offered to those in Brighton. We are an example for the rest of the country to follow.

“Coming out today with my status will be newsworthy but the recognition should go to the countless who have come before me to fight – and it has been a fight for many – this disease. We are where we are today because of giants in our community that have paved the way for where we are today. I could not be more proud to represent Brighton Kemptown, today more than ever.”

Jeremy Corbyn MP
Jeremy Corbyn MP

Jeremy Corbyn, Leader of the Labour Party said: “Lloyd has shown enormous courage today. I know the whole Labour Party is proud of him. His dignity and hope will inspire people across the country and around the world – those with HIV, and also those of us who will always stand together with them.

“Thanks to activists and campaigners, from Act Up to parliamentarians like Lloyd and Chris Smith, stigma against people with HIV is gradually lessening. And people who are HIV Positive and have access to treatment can now be sure that they will remain healthy and that their partners are protected.

“But we must remain vigilant against prejudice, and we must fight for everyone to have access to effective treatment.

“Lloyd’s bravery represents the very best of Labour. This World Aids Day I will be proud to wear the red ribbon in solidarity and respect.”

Deborah Gold
Deborah Gold

Deborah Gold, Chief Executive of NAT (National AIDS Trust) added: “Lloyd has the full support of NAT in telling the public that he is living with HIV. Although no one is obliged to be open about their status, and it isn’t always an easy decision, the same stigma that makes it hard to say you have HIV, is a stigma that is gradually eroded by people being open and proud.

“HIV, as Lloyd shows us, is no longer a death sentence and for most it no longer even significantly compromises their health. It is a manageable condition; illness and the risk of passing it on to others can be completely averted with simple daily medication.

“These simple messages can be a powerful antidote to HIV stigma, and by his action today, Lloyd has drawn attention to these facts and shown solidarity with the 101,000 people also living with HIV in the UK. 

“As the first serving MP to be openly living with HIV Lloyd has taken a big step and we absolutely applaud him.”