MP for Hornsey and Wood Green
Lynne Featherstone, MP for Hornsey and Wood Green, has attended an event at Parliament for World AIDS Day (December 1) to back efforts to increase HIV testing. The event was organised by HIV and sexual health charity Terrence Higgins Trust (THT).
Currently, one in four people with HIV in the UK do not know they have it. This is bad for their health and the health of others as they are not getting vital treatment and are statistically more likely to pass on the virus. In Haringey, 27% of people with HIV are diagnosed ‘very late’, well after they should have started treatment. THT and other organisations are promoting the ‘Halve It’ campaign, which wants to see rates of undiagnosed and late diagnosed HIV halved within the next five years.
Ms Featherstone said: “I am delighted to support this vitally important issue. We all need to work together to increase HIV testing because it is in everyone’s interests. I hope that this World AIDS Day more people who may have been at risk of HIV will decide to get tested. People used to think an HIV diagnosis was like a death sentence, but HIV treatment has moved on so much in the last few years. An HIV diagnosis today is something that could save your life, because as long as you get the treatment in time, you can expect to live well into old age.”
Sir Nick Partridge, Chief Executive of Terrence Higgins Trust, said: “We’re very pleased Lynne Featherstone is helping us to raise awareness of HIV testing this World AIDS Day. People with undiagnosed HIV are not only putting their own health seriously at risk, they are also more likely to pass the virus on. Testing too late costs lives and money.”
World AIDS Day, which has been running every December since 1988, is dedicated to raising awareness of HIV and AIDS. In the UK alone, 86,500 people are living with HIV and over 6,500 are diagnosed every year.
I attended a candlelight vigil outside Wood Green Library to mark World AIDS Day – and very important it is to continue to send out that public statement about AIDS and HIV.
There still exists a stigma around AIDS and HIV and there shouldn’t be. I don’t know why this should still persist today – when we are so much better informed about how the disease is transmitted. It shouldn’t do. We can’t catch it from toilets or shaking hands – in fact – it was one of the really good things Diana Princess of Wales did. She visited an AIDS ward many years ago and shook hands with an AIDS patient – a clip that was shown on newsreels across the world – and in one go said (effectively) if a princess is allowed to shake hands with an AIDS sufferer – then it can’t be catching. And trust – am not a royalist!
The second concern is that since the early days of AIDS when none of us knew that much about it and the campaign to warn us of its dangers was so scary that we virtually crossed our legs and decried sex for the rest of our lives – the infection rate is still alarming today. Particularly when a condom is the answer – ie not complicated.
But without the scariness of the initial unknowns (when we didn’t know how far back we needed to go in terms of having had a sexual partner before we were in the clear) it seems that not everyone takes the appropriate precautions – and the consequence of not taking appropriate precautions – is that you can contract HIV – still today. It hasn’t gone away.
The really good news is that the drugs used these days to combat AIDS and HIV mean that there is no death sentence as used to be the case. These days it’s called living with AIDS – and that’s the point!