Like millions of people across the UK, I was recently glued to my TV watching Russell T. Davies’ poignant masterpiece It’s A Sin. The show documents the lives of three young gay men during the early years of the HIV/AIDS crisis in the UK. It powerfully and painfully demonstrates just how rife with panic, fear, shame, and silence the HIV epidemic was for gay and bisexual men.
Mancunian, Nathaniel J Hall was diagnosed with HIV two weeks before his 17th birthday. Now in his thirties, Nathaniel stars in It’s A Sin and has become a vocal advocate raising awareness of HIV and tackling the stigma that still surrounds it. While I am lucky enough to call him a constituent. You can read more about his powerful story here.
It is thought there is an estimated 6,700 people living with undiagnosed HIV in the UK, and this week we marked HIV Testing Week. Testing for HIV no longer means visiting a dreary hospital and an agonising wait of weeks. You can now get the simple and free test delivered to your door and get the results in just a few days. To order a free test kit visit It Starts With Me.
Thankfully, an HIV diagnosis is no longer a death sentence, but an easily manageable condition. The scientific advances in the prevention and treatment of HIV have been some of the greatest in modern medicine. As a result, the HIV epidemic has changed a lot since the tragedy of the ‘80s and unlike in those early days of fear and misinformation depicted in It’s A Sin, we know what we need to do to tackle this virus. We now have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to end the HIV epidemic once and for all and stop new infections by 2030 – we must not miss it.
This week also marks the beginning of LGBT+ History Month, in which we can reflect on the enormous strides we’ve made in LGBT+ rights from repealing Section 28 to equal marriage. However, it also reminds us of how far we have to go – whether it’s fighting for trans rights at home or LGBT+ rights around the world.
Sadly, on 2 February, Maureen Colquhoun died aged 92. Maureen was Britain’s first openly lesbian MP from 1974 to 1979. While in Parliament, she faced sexism and homophobia but continued to make her voice heard and blazed a trail for the many gay women who have followed her into the House of Commons.
“I am gay and proud of it… my sexuality has nothing whatsoever to do with my ability to do the job.” – Maureen Colquhoun