Public Health Minister says tackling HIV stigma is vital

Gary Hart December 3, 2015

Jane Ellison, Lord Fowler and Baroness Gould were among speakers to a diverse audience of MPs and celebrities at the Terrence Higgins Trust (THT) World AIDS Day parliamentary reception on December 1.

Jane Ellison MP, Jackie Morton CEO THT, and Robert Glick Chair of THT Trustees at reception

Nancy Dell’olio, African talk show host Sporah and actor Lucian Msmati were among supporters attending the event.

To mark World AIDS Day, THT released a snap shot poll of gay men living with HIV in Britain which highlighted more than three-quarters living with HIV experience stigma.

This was most prevalent :

♦         In the gay community itself, where nearly two-thirds (63 per cent) had experienced stigma;

♦         In online dating environments – 60 per cent; and

♦        When dating – 58 per cent.

♦         74 per cent of men polled felt a level of self-stigma, which they impose on themselves

Nearly two-thirds (63 per cent) of those polled felt shame, 56 per cent blamed themselves, while half said they felt guilty.

Minister for Public Heath, Jane Ellison MP, said: “We can not fight HIV without everyone taking part – getting tested, knowing their status.

“I welcome the Terrence Higgins Trust approach to stop stigma, because tackling stigma is vital in this.”

Lord Fowler, who was responsible for the high-profile public education campaign in the 1980s on HIV/AIDS in the UK and introducing the clean-needles policy, spoke out against public health cuts saying it should be an “investment” which leads to future savings, and pointed to stigma as a barrier.

He said: “HIV is not just a medical problem, there is a barrier of stigma and prejudice. If we do not overcome these we will never overcome HIV.”

Baroness Gould urged the government to examine SRE in schools as a means to tackling stigma and as a tool in the fight against HIV, called for the availability of PrEP in the UK and denounced the £200m cuts to local health budgets.

This World AIDS Day Terrence Higgins Trust challenged HIV stigma through positive action, support and education. Thousands of people wore the iconic red ribbons following the ‘Wear it’ campaign, with others taking red ribbon selfies, showing solidarity with the #StopStigma campaign.

There are more than 107,000 people living with HIV in the UK, with one in  six undiagnosed and unaware they are living with the virus.

THT CEO Jackie Morton, Pastor Elizabeth, Lord Fowler and Baroness Gould
THT CEO Jackie Morton, Pastor Elizabeth, Lord Fowler and Baroness Gould