Last Saturday, March 18th, central London was filled with a wonderful sense of community as hundreds turned out for the Fighting HIV stigma and Proud March, Vigil and Rally. The event was organised by the Terrence Higgins Trust to raise awareness of the ongoing stigma surrounding HIV and AIDS and to call for greater support for those living with the virus.
The march started at County Hall, crossed Westminster Bridge, passed the Houses of Parliament and continued up Whitehall to Trafalgar Square, as people carried banners and signs calling for an end to HIV stigma. The mood was upbeat but determined as participants reflected on the ongoing impact of HIV and AIDS on individuals and communities. When the march reached Trafalgar Square, participants gathered for a vigil to remember those who have lost their lives to HIV and AIDS. Speeches were given by community leaders and activists, who shared their personal experiences of living with HIV and the challenges they have faced due to stigma and discrimination. People of all ages, races, and backgrounds shared their stories and called for action to end HIV stigma.
One of the event's key messages was the need for greater access to healthcare and support services for people living with HIV. The speakers called for increased funding for research into HIV prevention and treatment, as well as better education about the virus and how it is transmitted.
Part of (former Mildmay chaplain) Revd Jide Macaulay's speech and one of the songs the London Gay Mens Chorus entertained us with
The fight against HIV stigma is an ongoing struggle, and powerful events like this one are an important reminder of the challenges that still need to be overcome. But the atmosphere of solidarity and determination throughout the day was a powerful reminder of the resilience of the human spirit and the ability of communities to come together to make change happen.
The event was organised by the Terrence Higgins Trust and supported by a coalition of over twenty organisations committed to ending HIV stigma, of which Mildmay is proud to be a part. We are grateful for the kind support of ViiV, Wandsworth OASIS, Fast Track Cities London, Gilead and Merck Sharp & Dohme.
The most recent estimate suggests 106,890 people were living with HIV in the UK in 2019. Of these, around 5,150 are undiagnosed and don't know they are HIV positive. Anyone can get HIV, but people from some groups are more likely to be affected. Men who have sex with men and Black African people are disproportionately affected. Over half of women living with HIV in the UK have experienced violence because of their HIV status. The Fight HIV Stigma march, vigil, and rally in Trafalgar Square was a powerful and moving event highlighting the ongoing struggle against HIV stigma and discrimination. It’s an important reminder of the need for greater support and resources for people living with HIV and a call to action for individuals and communities to come together to create a world free from HIV stigma and discrimination.