Thirty years ago a young man was dying in St Thomas Hospital London. His doctors didn’t know what was
wrong with him, and his family, who never approved
of his ‘lifestyle’, didn’t want to know. His partner,
Rupert Whitaker, 19-years-old and
terrified, had the hospital curtains
shut in his face. He wasn’t
considered next of kin. That
person was Terry Higgins – he
died of AIDS.
It was the appalling way
that Terry was treated in
hospital, and the prejudice
shown by the hospital
towards his friends, that
motivated them to set up an
organisation to promote
research and offer support to
people living with and affected by
the condition: that organisation was the
Terrence Higgins Trust (THT). 30 years on
Positive Lives congratulates THT on its anniversary.
Enormous developments in the control of HIV,
particularly with the development of antiretroviral
therapies in the late 90’s, have enabled people living
with HIV to lead full and active lives. HIV therapies
have dramatically changed the death sentence of
AIDS in 1982 into today’s manageable long-term HIV
Unfortunately, 30 years on we are still facing
prejudice, stigma, discrimination and social injustice
that surround HIV. Prejudice is about opinions and
attitudes that stigmatise HIV and the people who live
with it. Discrimination occurs when stigma fuelled by
prejudice leads to individuals being treated
adversely often with serious negative repercussions.
In a health care setting this might see a patient with
HIV being placed last on a theatre list, or having to
listen to concern being expressed that their blood
samples would have to be placed in special bottles,
or being quizzed unnecessarily about their HIV status
when having an unrelated operation. When
discrimination leads to people being forced from their
homes because of verbal or physical abuse, when discrimination denies someone a vital operation,
when discrimination results in children being denied
access to education, this amounts to social injustice.
Regretfully, Positive Lives has been made aware of
instances of all of these within the UK.
UNAIDS reports that more than 34 million
people are now living with HIV. It is
estimated that last year 2.5 million
people were newly infected with
HIV, and globally there were 1.7
million AIDS-related deaths which
is almost a third lower than the 2.3
million AIDS deaths in 2005.
In 2010 an estimated 91,500
people were living with HIV in the UK.
We cannot tell for certain how many
people are living with HIV because this
number combines the 69,424 people
diagnosed with HIV with over 22,000 who were
estimated to be infected but undiagnosed.
People diagnosed late have a ten-fold increased risk
of death within a year of HIV diagnosis compared to
those diagnosed promptly. Late diagnosis also
means that a person has remained unaware of their
HIV status for many years, increasing the risk of
30 years on, we can all continue to make an
impact on social injustice, discrimination and stigma
by challenging prejudice wherever it is found. Show
solidarity; not just on World AIDS Day. Be proud to
wear a red ribbon the global symbol of HIV
awareness and support for people living with HIV.
One way you can raise HIV awareness is by wearing a Red Ribbon.
The Red Ribbon has been the international symbolof HIV Awareness since 1991. The Red Ribbon was created by the New York based organisation Visual AIDS, which brought together artists to create a symbol of support for the growing number of people living with HIV in the United States of America. It has since been adopted worldwide.
The Red Ribbon is worn as a sign of support for people living with HIV. Wearing a red ribbon is a simple and powerful way to challenge stigma and prejudice surrounding HIV and AIDS.
We can send you a red ribbon through the post contact us...
For journalists - the new NUJ guidleines for reporting HIV
UK World AIDS Day Site maintained by the National AIDS Trust
UNAIDS World AIDS Campaign website
Global HIV/AIDS statistics