In addition to being the results day for the Liberal Democrats’ European candidate selection, yesterday was something far more fundamental… Wold AIDS Day.
HIV is a very serious infection, but it is easily preventable and now highly treatable making AIDS no longer its inevitable result. It is therefore very important that everyone takes steps to protect themselves, and those in high risk groups ensure they are tested periodically.
I was therefore very pleased to see that G-A-Y once again teamed up with the Soho’s 56 Dean Street practice yesterday to get a record number of people tested at the famous bar West London bar.
For every person who got themselves tested G-A-Y would donate £10 to the Elton John AIDS Foundation, and so shortly after leaving Euro proceedings around Liberal Democrat Headquarters in Westminster, I headed to the bar to do my part. The test took just two minutes and gave a near instant result, with only a finger prick needed and so no big needles in sight.
As the Deputy Prime Minister said in his video on the subject yesterday (see below), HIV testing is freely available and there should be no stigma around it. If I, a recently selected candidate for high public office, can talk openly about going to a gay bar of all places to get tested for HIV then there is no reason why anyone should hesitate to visit their GP or GUM clinic in complete confidence to check themselves.
It is absolutely vital that people do this because, very worryingly, HIV diagnoses in men who have sex with men are now at their highest ever level. Since you don’t know your partners’ entire sexual history you must take steps to protect yourself irrespective if you fall within a high risk group, and if in doubt go get yourself tested.
Ultimately, HIV and AIDS still blights far too many lives – not only here in the UK but across the globe, most especially in Africa and other parts of the developing world. I am very pleased to see Liberal Democrat ministers taking this very seriously. In addition to Nick Clegg’s intervention yesterday, Minister for International Development Lynne Featherstone MP recently attended the Faith and Criminalisation AGM of the AIDS Consortium where she said
‘I have come here today to emphasise the UK’s continued commitment to HIV. I want to make that very, very clear’
Lynne also spoke on theme of the AGM, ending discrimination on the basis of sexuality, an area on which she is an authority being the UK Government’s Minister for Equalities until recently (spearheading the move to equalise marriage, among other things). She said:
‘The world must work harder to empower these groups whose life circumstances place them under increased risk of HIV.’