Brighton Kemptown MP Lloyd Russell-Moyle said today that he has lived with HIV for almost ten years.
The Labour MP was due to lead an adjournment debate today about HIV and World AIDS day in the main chamber of the House of Commons.
Before making his speech, Mr Russell-Moyle said: “My announcement today will come as a surprise for many across the country.
“I have been asked if I am worried about the public’s reaction, of whether my constituency will be supportive. Those people clearly do not know Brighton.
“It is a privilege to represent one of the most dynamic, forward-thinking and accepting communities in the country.
“My decision to make public this very private aspect of my life was because of the ground-breaking organisations in my constituency who moved me to do so.
“The pride they have in their work and their unique bravery is something which I looked to and was directly inspired by.
“We are leading in Brighton, not just nationally on HIV and AIDS research and treatment but internationally.
“The Sussex Beacon, Lunch Positive, the Martin Fisher Foundation are just a few examples of exceptional treatment and support offered to those in Brighton. We are an example for the rest of the country to follow.
“Coming out today with my status will be newsworthy but the recognition should go to the countless who have come before me to fight – and it has been a fight for many – this disease.
“We are where we are today because of giants in our community that have paved the way for where we are today. I could not be more proud to represent Brighton Kemptown, today more than ever.”
He added: “This Saturday (1 December) will mark the 30th Anniversary of World AIDS Day – and next year it will be ten years since I became HIV positive.
“I was 22 years old and diagnosed early. Since then I have been on world-class treatment provided by the NHS – so I have not only survived, I’ve prospered and any partner I have is safe and protected.
“I am leading this debate today because we are in many ways at a juncture in the fight against HIV and AIDS. We could be more vocal, more ambitious, more determined to eradicate the disease in the UK. Or, we could go in the direction of the government, which is putting our hard-fought progress at risk.
“Their reluctance to make the HIV prevention drug PrEP available on the NHS is disgraceful. We now know of cases of young men who have tried to gain access to PrEP, who have been turned away and who have subsequently contracted HIV. These men’s HIV statuses were entirely avoidable. The government must now act to prevent this from happening again.
“The disease is still deeply misunderstood. Etched into much of the public’s memory as a death sentence, HIV conjures images of gravestones and a life marked by tragedy.
“The reality is that today the prognosis is wildly different to what it was when it was bought to the public’s attention. If treated, someone who is HIV positive, like myself, can expect to live a long and full life with little to no side-effects from the drugs regime.
“I hope that my coming out serves to defy the stigma around the disease. I hope that more people will understand that effective treatment keeps people who are HIV positive healthy, and it protects their partners. That my story might encourage others to get tested and ultimately begin their treatment earlier on.
“Those who have HIV or who have recently been diagnosed should know that they are free to pursue every aspect of public life without hindrance.”
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said: “Lloyd has shown enormous courage today. I know the whole Labour Party is proud of him. His dignity and hope will inspire people across the country and around the world – those with HIV and also those of us who will always stand together with them.
“Thanks to activists and campaigners, from Act Up to parliamentarians like Lloyd and Chris Smith, stigma against people with HIV is gradually lessening. And people who are HIV Positive and have access to treatment can now be sure that they will remain healthy and that their partners are protected.
“But we must remain vigilant against prejudice, and we must fight for everyone to have access to effective treatment.
“Lloyd’s bravery represents the very best of Labour. This World Aids Day I will be proud to wear the red ribbon in solidarity and respect.”
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