This World AIDS Day, the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has announced new £130,000 funding from the Commission for Diversity in the Public Realm towards London’s first HIV/AIDS permanent memorial.
The new memorial will highlight the impact of HIV/AIDS on the lives of the communities most affected and will act as a reminder that the fight to end AIDS, and the stigma of HIV and AIDS worldwide continues, and will serve as an education resource for current and future generations.
The artist commissioning process for the new memorial is underway and the new memorial will be located in Camden near the first dedicated HIV/AIDS hospital ward in the UK. The commission has worked closely with AIDS Memory UK, the charity driving the memorial project, over the past two years and the memorial will be in place by 2026.
The powerful message of solidarity will help address the stigma and discrimination faced by many who live with HIV, as the Mayor works towards building a better, healthier, more equitable city for all Londoners.
London is now the world-leading city for HIV diagnosis and treatment, with 96 per cent of people with HIV diagnosed, 98 per cent of whom are on treatment and 99 per cent of those with the HIV virus suppressed.
Supporting those living with the virus has been a key part of the Mayor’s Health Inequalities Strategy and ongoing action to build a safer London for all. This week the Mayor signed City Hall up as the founding member of Fast-Track Cities, London’s new HIV Confident Charter to tackle stigma and discrimination in the workplace.
The charter has been developed in partnership with the HIV voluntary sector, people affected by HIV, the NHS, London Councils and public health organisations. The HIV Confident charter and accompanying ambassadors programme will ensure Londoners living with HIV can access services, jobs and feel included in society without fear of discrimination.
It commits City Hall to provide training for staff members, HIV friendly workplace policies, as well as tools to report discrimination. It also means that City Hall will continue to work in partnership with the wider community to expand the reach and impact of the charter, and the Mayor is encouraging other organisations to follow suit and sign up.1
The Ambassadors programme, delivered in partnership with Terrence Higgins Trust, will ensure that the faces, voices and lived experiences of people living with HIV fully inform the charter. This will help to tackle internalised stigma for people living with HIV, and societal stigma and discrimination with proven, community-informed methods.
The action by the Mayor comes as figures2 show that three in four people living with HIV in the UK have reported experiening stigma or discrimination as a result of their diagnosis, and more than 40 per cent of those with a diagnosis live in London. Research from Fast Track Cities and National AIDS Trust also found that only one third of Londoners say they have sympathy for people living with HIV, regardless of how they acquired it. This has a detrimental effect on health outcomes, as it can prevent people from getting tested and treated.
The Mayor is committed to building a city that welcomes and respects people living with HIV, and this latest move comes as London gets ever closer to achieving the UN development goal of zero HIV transmissions by 2030, having already become the first global city to exceed the UNAIDS 2025 target.
Later today, representatives from AIDS Memory UK, Camden Council, the Mayor’s Commission for Diversity in the Public Realm and Deputy Mayor for Culture and Creative Industries Justine Simons will take part in the annual vigil to remember those who have died and the communities impacted by the HIV/AIDS epidemic. The vigil is being held at the proposed site for London’s first HIV/AIDS permanent memorial.
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 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.”
Founder and CEO of AIDS Memory UK, Ash Kotak, said: “One question I am often asked is “why do we need The AIDS Memorial in London?” The reasons are many but it starts with a philosophy and a vision… What London do we want? And it asks questions of justice; of cruel deaths; and of survival; of courage and activism; about ending HIV transmissions and AIDS deaths too; and how we as human beings, value the lives and experiences of those marginalised in society.
“For over 40 years, HIV stigma has continued as well as the associated abuse due to our race, our gender, our sexuality, our religion, our nationality; the way we look, our values; our beliefs and our virus. We lost so many; saw so much hate; felt too much pain and loneliness; rejection; alienation… We will and cannot forget.”
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.”