Newcastle MP supports tackling HIV stigma and discrimination

Newcastle North MP, Catherine McKinnell, has given her support to tackling HIV stigma and discrimination at an event held in Parliament this week ahead of this year’s 30th anniversary of World AIDS Day on 1st December.

The reception was jointly hosted by STOPAIDS, the International HIV/AIDS Alliance, and the All-Party Parliamentary Group on HIV/AIDS – of which Catherine is a member – as part of ENDAIDS2030, a weeklong Festival of events to mark the 30th anniversary of World AIDS Day by raising public awareness of HIV and uniting the domestic and international HIV sectors in the goal of ending AIDS by 2030.

A panel of high-level experts, including Alistair Burt MP – Minister for the Department for International Development (DfID) and the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO); and Festus Mogae – former President of Botswana and Chairman of the Champions for an AIDS Free Generation, spoke on the topic of improving the quality of life for people living with HIV.

Catherine was among more than 20 Parliamentarians attending this week’s event, where she also met with the Martin Fisher Foundation’s ‘Stiggy the StigmaSaur’, highlighting the imperative of addressing the stigma and discrimination surrounding HIV, which continues to act as a barrier to people getting tested and accessing life-saving treatment. 

The Newcastle North MP said:

‘I am proud to mark World AIDS Day each year, but thirty years after this was first launched we are still having to talk about ending the stigma of HIV and AIDS – both at home and elsewhere around the world. 

‘As a member of the All-Party Group on HIV/AIDS, I will continue to raise awareness of this so that more people get tested and access treatment in this country, as well to back the life-saving initiatives our international development funding supports overseas. Both of these are vital if we are to achieve the goal of ending AIDS by 2030.’

Speaking on the UK’s commitment to the global HIV response, Alistair Burt MP (Minister for DfID and the FCO), said:

‘World AIDS Day is an important reminder that stigma and discrimination continues to fuel the epidemic, preventing people from accessing the vital treatment they need.

‘I am proud the UK is a global leader on HIV prevention, treatment and care and earlier this year we provided a further £6million of UK aid to increase access to life-saving services for vulnerable people through the Robert Carr Fund. We are committed to ending AIDS by 2030.’

Festus Mogae, former President of Botswana and Chairman of the Champions for an AIDS Free Generation, said:

‘We are in the remaining miles of our journey to ending AIDS and we cannot afford to compromise our achievement by disengaging or resting, since we know for sure that we will be back to where we were and lose all of our gains. We implore our partners to recognise that AIDS is not yet over in Africa, especially in southern and eastern Africa. Africa cannot end AIDS by itself. AIDS is a global problem and must be addressed as such. The legacy of our leaders, especially parliamentarians, must be reflected in their progressive efforts for the betterment of our societies and the world.’

The International HIV/AIDS Alliance, a leading organisation in the fight against HIV also launched a briefing entitled Quality of life for people living with HIV: what is it, why does it matter and how we can make it happen? which outlines why quality of life for people living with HIV is essential to achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Other speakers at the reception this week included: Dianne Stewart from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria, who spoke on the Global Fund’s role in ensuring quality of life; Dr Melanie Abas, an academic from King’s College London focusing on the intersection between mental health and HIV; and Audrey Nosenga, a leading HIV campaigner from Zimbabwe Young Positives (ZY+) on the importance of peer support to ensuring quality of life for young people living with HIV.