This weekend The National AIDS Trust (NAT) will call on the Government to change the law so that it properly protects people living with HIV from hate crime.

The campaign will coincide with the International Day Against Homophobia which will take place this Saturday.

More than 31,000 gay and bisexual men are living with HIV in the UK.

Many may face not only homophobia but HIV-prejudice too.

Research suggests that one out of three men living with HIV has faced discrimination linked to their HIV status.

In a small number of cases this prejudice can result in hate crime such as vandalism, physical or verbal abuse or serious assault.

Since 2003 the law has made hate crime on the grounds of race, sexuality or disability an aggravating factor for sentencing, however HIV hate crime is not protected in this way.

Deborah Jack, Chief Executive of the NAT, said:

“The issue of hate crime against people living with HIV is serious. We hear horrific stories of people suffering abuse and many more cases almost certainly go unreported.

“We are asking the Government to send out a message that HIV-related hate crime is unacceptable by changing the law to ensure people living with HIV are given equal protection.”

In April last year an HIV-positive man in Manchester was viciously assaulted and left unconscious in his flat resulting in permanent disabilities, after he disclosed his status to a sexual partner.

Deborah Jack added:

“It is important to recognise the role the gay community has to play in addressing HIV-related hate crime.

“With 1 in 10 gay men in London living with HIV and one in twenty nationally, the whole gay community must take a stand against HIV prejudice and hate crime.

“That includes being prepared to respond sensitively and well when you learn of another’s HIV positive status.”

It is feared that the prejudice that HIV sufferers face will put off many from having the test for the virus.

A spokesperson from the Terrence Higgins Trust said:

“A third of people with HIV don’t know they have it, which is why it’s essential that anyone who thinks they might have been at risk of HIV goes to a clinic for a test.

“The best way to protect yourself against HIV and other sexually transmitted infections is still to practice safer sex and always use a condom.”

In many countries, including the UK, it is a criminal offence to knowingly infect someone with the HIV virus.

Some scientists have commented that the law discourages gay men from getting tested.

The NAT is calling on the LGBT community to come forward with stories of how HIV-related hate crime may have affected their lives, to build its case for better legislation around hate crime for people living with HIV.

Anyone wishing to find out more or submit their story should contact policyandcampaigns@nat.org.uk