London, 1st December — City Hall becomes a founding member of ‘HIV Confident’, a new HIV anti-stigma charter led by National AIDS Trust, aidsmap, and Positively UK to tackle stigma and discrimination in the workplace. Fast Track Cities London is delighted to announce the new charter and a new HIV ambassador programme led by Terrence Higgins Trust today on World AIDS Day.
HIV Confident will work with the HIV sector to deliver an educational programme that will tackle stigma and discrimination in companies and frontline public services in London and the UK more broadly. The HIV Ambassadors are people living with HIV who act as role models and community representatives. They share their lived experience and personal perspective to a range of audiences and support the rollout and uptake of the HIV Confident Charter. The programmes will work together, making sure the lived experiences of people living with HIV are centred as member organisations strive to become HIV Confident.
HIV stigma continues to have a profound impact on people living with HIV and a lack of awareness contributes to that. Three in four people living with HIV have experienced discrimination or stigma due to their HIV status,[i] while only one in five people know that if someone’s on effective treatment, they can’t pass it on.[ii] HIV Confident will work with member organisations to make sure they are places people living with HIV can access with confidence that they will be respected. This is illuminated further by Pank Sethi’s firsthand experience below.
“A couple of months ago, I was in an A&E department and was being seen by the triage nurse. I informed her I was living with HIV and was on treatment. It was at that point that she decided to double-glove just to take my blood pressure. This was in 2023.
Being a HIV Ambassador allows me to use my story to help change the culture in organisations in the health and care sector, and beyond. I’m looking forward to working alongside organisations to create a culture that will provide people living with HIV with the confidence we need to access services without fear of stigma.”
As a founding member of this groundbreaking initiative, the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan has pledged his support.
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “World AIDS Day is a time to remember and honour all those who have been lost to HIV/AIDS related illness, and to unite everyone in our ongoing battle against the virus and the stigma that too frequently comes with it.
“We have come a long way in addressing those taboos and City Hall is once again leading the way in tackling health inequalities by signing the HIV Confident charter.
“I am also proud that we are helping to fund the first permanent HIV/AIDS memorial in London. This powerful message of solidarity will help address the stigma and discrimination faced by many who live with HIV, as we work towards building a better, healthier, more equitable city for all Londoners.”
Professor Kevin Fenton CBE, Regional Public Health Director for London and Co-Chair of the London HIV Fast Track Cities Initiative, echoes these sentiments, saying, “Ending HIV transmission in London requires a sustained focus on delivering what we know works to those in need, in order to control the spread of the infection including expanded HIV testing, access to high quality treatment and care, and easy access to HIV PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis). It also requires us to tackle the social and structural barriers to HIV care which includes HIV stigma and discrimination. The ‘HIV Confident’ Charter Mark represents a significant step towards creating a world in which everyone feels safe and supported, irrespective of their HIV status.”
Professor Jane Anderson, Co-Chair of the London Fast Track Cities Initiative, underscores the importance of addressing HIV stigma as a fundamental aspect of the battle against HIV transmission, stating, “In our pursuit of ending HIV transmission by 2030, tackling HIV stigma is of paramount importance. By establishing a society in which people living with HIV are treated with dignity and respect, accessing testing and treatment and living with HIV all become easier.”
Deborah Gold, Chief Executive at National AIDS Trust, said: “We’re incredibly proud to be working with our partners to develop HIV Confident. Public and commercial services have a key role to play in tackling societal HIV stigma and improving the day to day experiences and wellbeing of people living with HIV.
Members of HIV Confident charter mark will actively strive to educate their employees and put in place measures that ensure no one experiences HIV stigma when accessing their service or working for them. We want people living with HIV to be confident in any place that displays the HIV Confident logo. The founding members of HIV Confident have today made a commitment to tackle HIV stigma in their organisations. By joining at the start of the journey, they form part of the foundation for a national programme that will make a tangible difference to the lives of people living with HIV and the fight against HIV stigma.”
Richard Angell, Chief Executive of Terrence Higgins Trust, said: “This is about putting the stories of people living with HIV at the heart of London’s public services and corporate giants. Our brilliant ambassadors will not only be communicating the up-to-date facts about HIV, but really changing hearts and minds. Currently people living with HIV still face unacceptably high levels of stigma, including rejection on dating apps, isolation in their communities and completely unnecessary double gloving in hospitals. We won’t let this continue on our watch and stigma must be smashed. London’s making great strides to end new HIV cases by 2030 and we can’t leave anyone behind.
The HIV Confident Charter, led by National AIDS Trust, aidsmap and Positively UK, as well as the Ambassador Programme led by Terrence Higgins Trust, with the backing of the Mayor, represents a significant milestone in the battle against HIV stigma and transmission. Founding members of HIV Confident will work with the partners to optimise the programme over the coming months, with e-learning, monitoring and other tools all in development.
For more information on the HIV Confident Charter mark and how you and your organisation could become HIV Confident, visit the new website here: http://hivconfident.org.uk/
[i] Terrence Higgins Trust. 2022. New data exposes shocking stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV. [website]. Available here: https://www.tht.org.uk/news/new-data-exposes-shocking-stigma-and-discrimination-against-people-living-hiv
[ii] National AIDS Trust and Fast Track Cities London. 2021. HIV: Public Knowledge and Attitudes. Available here: https://fasttrackcities.london/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/21033-NAT-Polling-Report-013S.pdf
Note to editor
About Fast Track Cities London:
The Fast-Track Cities initiative is a partnership of organisations, including the Mayor of London, NHS England, the Office for Health Inequalities and Disparities and London Councils committed to working with partners across the city to reach the following goals by 2030. Find out more: https://fasttrackcities.london/
About National AIDS Trust:
We’re the UK’s HIV rights charity. We work to stop HIV from standing in the way of health, dignity and equality, and to end new HIV transmissions. Find out more: https://www.nat.org.uk/
About NAM aidsmap:
We work to change lives by sharing information about HIV and AIDS. Find out more: https://www.aidsmap.com/
About Positively UK:
We offer rapid and confidential HIV testing across east London and provide sexual health information. Find out more: https://positivelyuk.org/
About Terrence Higgins Trust:
We’re the UK’s leading HIV and sexual health charity. We support people living with HIV and amplify their voices, and help the people using our services to achieve good sexual health. Find out more here: https://www.tht.org.uk/
For media inquiries, please contact:
HIV Confident: Joe.Parry@nat.org.uk