A candlelight vigil on College Green saw people turn out last night (1 December) in support of World AIDS Day. Despite the cold weather a large group turned out to hear from Marvin Rees, Mayor of Bristol, and others talk about the need to be aware of the challenges and the stigma those living with HIV face.
The event, organised by the Brigstowe Project and Out Bristol, comes two years after Bristol was named an area of high prevalence of HIV with over 2 in every 1000 people now living with the virus.
Speaking at the vigil, Marvin Rees said: “We are a City of Sanctuary in Bristol. Whilst for some that may mean we are a city that welcomes people from outside our boundary I believe it should also reflect that we are a city that supports and protects those who live in Bristol. Events like this give us a chance to reemphasise that we still live in a society where those living with HIV are stigmatised and to make the point once again that this is not acceptable. We’ve come a long way since the virus became a global epidemic in the eighties but we must remain vigilant and support those who need our help and compassion.”
Other speakers at the event included representatives of the Brigstowe Project and the Terrence Higgins Trust. The Brigstowe Project, a Bristol based charity who recently celebrated their 21st birthday, provide support, information and advice to people in Bristol living or affected by HIV.
The Mayor added: “Without the work and support of these two organisations the situation in Bristol would be very different. The care they have shown those who live or have been affected by HIV has created an environment of love and support for many across the city. I thank them for their continuing efforts and extend that thanks to all in the city who are supporting those living with HIV.”
Councillor Helen Godwin said: “The world has changed so much since the first World AIDS Day in 1988 and the outcomes for some living with HIV have thankfully changed for the better. The advancements in science, medicine and social understanding of the virus have led to much better outcomes for those with access to the right drugs and medical care. But this brighter future isn’t shared by everyone with around 20 million people worldwide living with HIV without access to drugs. Many are children in third world countries where healthcare standards are poor and HIV remains a death sentence.
“We must continue to offer support to those living with HIV and support the work of those trying to create better outcomes for those who live in need. We will continue to fight AIDS and will do this in memory of those who we have lost to the disease.”
There are 36.7 million people worldwide living with HIV. Of those, just 17 million are taking the highly effective anti-retroviral treatment.
In the UK medication is easily accessible but the country does still face big issues. HIV-related stigma continues to be a major problem for many people living with HIV in the UK; having an HIV diagnosis can affect work, home life, relationships, mental and physical health. Infections rates are still rising.
Are you living with HIV or know someone who is? To find out more about the support and advice on offer please use the following contact details:
• Terrence Higgins Trust – 8 West Street, Bristol – 0117 955 1000 – www.tht.org.uk
• The Brigstowe Project – Easton Community Centre, Kilburn Street, BS5 6AW - 0117 955 5038 - http://www.brigstowe.org