Hackney marks the 30th anniversary of World AIDS Day

In the run up to this year’s World AIDS Day on Saturday 1 December, a series of events took place across Hackney to raise awareness of HIV and testing for the virus, championed by the Mayor Philip Glanville and Cllr Feryal Demirci, Deputy Mayor and Cabinet Member for Health, Social Care, Transport and Parks.

A flag marking World AIDS Day was presented to the Mayor and Cllr Demirci by Mark Santos, Director at East London based charity Positive East and displayed at Hackney Service Centre in Hillman Street for a week. Positive East provides a range of services from information around HIV related issues, counselling and peer and group support for affected groups including HIV positive women who are asylum seekers and refugees.

Positive East also organised the annual Red Run fundraising race, which was opened by the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan this year in Victoria Park on Saturday, to mark the 30th anniversary of World AIDS Day. 

The Mayor of Hackney took part in the a 10k run. He said: “I was very proud to take part in one of the biggest fundraising events for HIV organisations, alongside the Mayor of London. There is a huge drive and commitment to raise awareness of HIV and in Hackney we are providing services to make it easier for people to get tested. However there is still too much stigma associated with the virus and taking a test; stigma also continues to affect the lives of people living with HIV. Both can have an impact on our work to reduce transmission. "We continue to champion the U = U campaign which seeks to ensure that everyone knows that someone living with HIV and on effective treatment cannot pass on the virus; and why we urge the Government and NHS England to commit to making PrEP fully available to those that need it.

“For all these reasons, I continue to personally champion HIV awareness and fight stigma, especially on World AIDS Day where we remember those who lost their lives to this disease before treatment was effective.”

There were free instant HIV tests available at Dalston Superstore in Kingsland High Street on Saturday 1 December and on Friday 30 November at Hackney Service Centre - offered by Homerton Sexual Health Services. The Mayor and Cllr Demirci visited the stall at the Service Centre to encourage residents to check their HIV status.

Cllr Demirci said: “There have been improvements in overall testing rates and a reduction in the number of people diagnosed with HIV this year but there is still a high proportion of people who are diagnosed at a late stage of infection - over 40 per cent - which has remained high for the past five years. “Our sexual health services in City and Hackney offer free HIV testing in a range of options to suit individual needs and we have seen a record number of free HIV home testing kits being ordered since the beginning of the year. The earlier someone is diagnosed, the better their chances of preventing potential illness.”

Homerton Hospital held a session to find out what it is like to live with HIV in 2018. This year also marked the 20th anniversary of the death of Professor Jonathan Mann, whose work on HIV and human rights has influenced the ethos of the services offered at the hospital. 

The Council also funded a community building event organised by the Terrence Higgins Trust for LGBTQ+ Persons of Colour (POC) at Chats Palace Theatre in Homerton on Thursday 29 November to explore their lived experiences and improve access to health services. 

Visit shl.uk to order a free HIV and other STI home testing kits, or http://www.homerton.nhs.uk/sexual-health to find details of clinics in the City and Hackney.