Community News

The Sussex HIV Chaplaincy: a listening ear, a friendly face and a supportive voice

October 31, 2022

By Heather Leake Date – Sussex HIV Chaplain 

Having worked as a pharmacist in the Brighton HIV team since 1991, when I was ordained as a presbyter (minister) in the Methodist Church it was important to me and the Church that the main focus of my new role would also be the local community of people affected by HIV. The idea of an HIV Chaplain was not new, and I was helped by spending time with two London-based Methodist Ministers: Neil Whitehouse, who set up and ran ‘Kairos in Soho’, and Steve Penrose, who established the London HIV Chaplaincy.

The Sussex HIV Chaplaincy was launched on World AIDS Day 2004, with the support of local churches of all denominations. It continues to provide a free, confidential service to anyone affected by HIV, regardless of their faith background. As the HIV Chaplain I provide non-judgemental pastoral care – a listening ear, a friendly face and a supportive voice – for anyone with emotional or spiritual issues related to their HIV status or that of someone close to them. The Chaplaincy is not a counselling or psychology service, but I can signpost people to other professionals or organisations if appropriate. Please text or call 07867 773360, or email if you would like to talk.

The Chaplaincy has been part of the Brighton & Hove World AIDS Day Community Partnership since its inception in 2009. As Chaplain, on behalf of the Partnership, I am responsible for the safekeeping of the list of names to be read at the World AIDS Day Candlelight Vigil, which will be held in New Steine Gardens on Thursday, December 1 at 6pm.

The Vigil is primarily intended to remember people with a local connection who died with HIV (not necessarily as a result of it), but proof is not needed. When a name is submitted I check the list to see if the name is already there, and if not, the person will be added. Initially, due to stigma or confidentiality concerns, some people just gave first names or nicknames, but now it’s more usual for someone’s full name to be listed. There are currently just over 350 names which are read in groups of 10 by readers at the Vigil. Sadly this is just a fraction of the total number who have died over the last 40 years, but it is never too late to add someone.

To submit a name, please email the details to me at by midnight on November 25. Please include the correct pronunciation (especially if it may be unclear to a reader); this is then added to the list with the name. Late entries can be made at the Lunch Positive marquee in New Steine Gardens on December 1 before the Vigil, but advance notice is preferred.

I also organise the annual World AIDS Day Service of Remembrance and Hope at Dorset Gardens Methodist Church, which is held on the Sunday nearest to World AIDS Day. This year’s service (shared with the Village MCC) is on Sunday, December 4 at 6pm; everyone is welcome.