What World AIDS Day means to me

We’re in the middle of a General Election campaign and you can be forgiven for not being aware of every international day the United Nations celebrates, but I want to draw your attention to one that is special to me: World AIDS Day. It’s today.

I’ve been living with HIV for over 15 years, since June 2004, but I didn’t publicly disclose my status until March 2015 – when I became Britain’s first openly HIV positive candidate. There’s still so much stigma attached to being HIV positive that, despite knowing that I am healthy, undetectable and am able to live my life to the fullest, there was still so much pressure on that moment for me.

As I prepared to tell my constituents and the rest of the world about my status, I was taken back to the earliest moments of my diagnosis. From the time that my health adviser, Mark, shared the news and the initial determination and acceptance I felt to the devastation of telling my closest friends, whose reaction was more upsetting than my own.

And then, to six months later, on Boxing Day 2004 when I went to tell my parents. I hadn’t even told them I was gay yet. The disclosure got that much tougher.

But looking back, I can’t be thankful enough for the support I’ve received. Both medically and emotionally, I’ve been empowered to speak up on this issue and now do what I can to support others who are struggling.

While I have been battling to tackle stigma in the UK and support the introduction of preventative medication like PrEP, World AIDS Day is also a moment to reflect on the global situation. One of our globally agreed UN goals is to end AIDS altogether by 2030. It is an achievable target. We have all the treatment and preventative know-how we need. But at the moment, we are not there yet- one example of this is how NHS England refuses to have PrEP free on our National health service to all that need it.

One of the reasons we are falling off track in the global response is because of funding. The Liberal Democrats are firmly committed to spending 0.7 per cent of Gross National Income (GNI) on aid and, if we remain inside the EU, then a stronger economy will mean more funds available for our overseas work too.

Another is because key populations, that is sex workers, people who inject drugs, men who have sex with men and transgender people, are disproportionately affected by HIV and need stronger support from international programming. I’m proud that the Liberal Democrats will put equality, including the protection of LGBT+ individuals, at the heart of its overseas aid policy.

So as this story starts with the personal way HIV has impacted my life, it ends with a call for action to be taken on a global scale. I hope that this World AIDS Day you can join me in that call and that together we can really end AIDS by 2030.

* Adrian Hyyrylainen-Trett is the Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Candidate for Ipswich and Chair of Liberal International British Group (LIBG).

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