Labour MP reveals to House of Commons he is HIV positive because he felt 'a duty' ahead of World AIDS Day

Labour MP tells House of Commons he is HIV positive because he felt 'a duty' ahead of World AIDS Day

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Labour MP Lloyd Russell-Moyle has revealed to the House of Commons that he is HIV positive ahead of World AIDS Day on Saturday.

He is the second MP to ever announce he has HIV as a Member of Parliament, following former Labour cabinet minister Chris Smith in 2005.

In an interview with the Press Association, Mr Russell-Moyle said he had decided to speak out "because he had a duty as a Member of Parliament".

The 32-year-old, from Brighton, added that cuts to public health meant he could not "keep quiet anymore" about an issue which affects him "so personally".

Mr Russell-Moyle, who made the announcement during a debate he initiated in the House of Commons about HIV and World Aids Day, said he discovered he was living with the virus after routine tests.

On discovering he had HIV, he said: "Of course it was a shock, however much you prepare yourself, you get that call and you are told 'Please come in, we can't tell you something over the phone', so you know something is wrong.

"Suddenly it hits you like a wall and loads of things are running through your mind.

"At the same time it feels like your insides are completely empty and you wonder 'Is this just a horrible joke?'. You even think 'I hope it is a horrible joke, I hope someone is going to pop out and say Candid Camera - boo! We've got you.' And of course that's not what happens; you have got to walk out there and start making your life.”

Mr Russell-Moyle said he was put on treatment a "year or two" after his diagnosis, adding: "That, actually, has been an absolute revelation for me, that you can effectively go about your life normally apart from a pill a day."

 

'Gut reaction' 

On the stigma surrounding HIV, the MP described "everyday" low-levels of stigma. 

 "Of course there are low-level elements of stigma in everyday life, in terms of just lack of knowledge, people reacting with gut reaction," he said. 

"Those 1980s campaigns play heavy in a lot of people's minds that this is some sort of death sentence."

He added: "In some ways I'm incredibly lucky, I'm a white gay man in a very liberal open city, and so out of all of the groups of people I will probably fare one of the better.”

Speaking earlier on Thursday, Chris O'Hanlon, the Gay Men Project Coordinator of Positively UK said the 1987 advertising around ‘Don’t die of ignorance’ is still in the “hearts and minds of many”.

He told talkRADIO’s Matthew Wright: “There is still a massive throwback to the 1987 advertising around ‘Don’t die of ignorance’, which has still been maintained until today.

“That message is still in the hearts and minds of many people who experience it or who lived through it.

“We are still dealing with levels of stigma that we are having to address on a daily basis.”

 

'Scapegoats' 

Mr O'Hanlon added that opinions are slower to catch up with treatement. 

“The problem with the campaign was that it was a double-edged sword," he said. 

“The Health Secretary at the time Norman Fowler thought that HIV needed addressing and that it was an epidemic that was happening.

“It was unfortunately blamed on the gay community and drug cultures. At the time these were the scapegoats that were commonly derogation parts of society.”

“Even to this day, we have this old-fashioned view of HIV. HIV today is incredibly different to what it was back in the 1980s," he added. 

“The access to anti-viral therapies has changed massively since 1996. We saw the death rate go from 98% to about 2%.

“Unfortunately, the attitudes and opinions were slower to catch up. At the time the Government spent a lot of money on the campaign. These days, if you look at the campaigning and advertising from Public Health, it is very little.”

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