Comment: HIV care is under threat due to lack of funding, not immigration
The Green Party candidate for Broxtowe, David Kirwan, writes for PinkNews after opening up about living with HIV.
When I was diagnosed in 1998, it was at a time when HIV/AIDS was being well funded.
Living in Brighton I was able to access a fantastic range of services and support. I was pretty ill at the time, and the benefit to getting me back on my feet was invaluable.
I was unwell for some time, and was able to access complimentary therapies as well as excellent NHS medical care. I now live in Nottingham and the range of facilities is noticeably lower.
The services on offer in London, Brighton and Manchester remains far higher than in my local area, and as a consequence I continue to travel to Brighton four times a year for treatment. It is essential that we receive appropriate funding to ensure that HIV health provision is consistent across the country.
As progress with treatment has been made over the years HIV has increasingly dropped off the agenda of most people.
The reason I have been open about my status has been to a) raise the profile and send a message that HIV has not gone away and effects people in every town however large or small across the country, b) to attempt to reduce the stigma and fear that still exists through lack of knowledge and c) to tackle the effects of austerity on HIV.
Many believe that HIV is something that affects others and does not impact their life. This is reinforced by the fact that those living with HIV still feel unable to discuss their condition openly due to stigma and fear of rejection.
This is what I hope to help to tackle by being someone who has gone from being gravely ill to now healthy and back at work in a demanding role. HIV is now largely a condition that is liveable with. However, it still can have dramatic effects, like any long term condition, and it’s important that people can say they are feeling unwell just as someone with diabetes or asthma would. The difficulty is that there is a fear HIV will not receive the same empathy as other long term conditions.
The more people feel able to be open about their condition the more understanding the general population will have about HIV.
HIV infection is still on the rise, and this will continue as long as the subject is ignored.
We already see that 25% of people living with HIV are undiagnosed. I myself was undiagnosed for many years until I became very unwell.
At a time when health budgets are being fought over as funding is being reduced in so many areas, we have to ensure HIV retains adequate funding. Failure to do so is short sighted and will result in far more costly treatment.
More from PinkNews
While the groups most affected by HIV in the UK continue to be MSM, black African heterosexual men and women and people who inject drugs, around 20% of people currently accessing care do not fall into any of these groups. However, there has been no recent investment in HIV prevention for a general public audience.
I am pleased to see candidates being open about their HIV status at this election. I hope others will feel able to do so in politics as well as in all areas of work, whether you are a politician, worker, student or parent.
We have seen negative and misleading messages about HIV from UKIP and I hope the impact of having HIV+ candidates with some exposure will help to balance those negative messages.
This election is an opportunity to choose to end austerity and re invest in our society at all levels and that is why I am standing as a candidate to put that choice over to people in Broxtowe to be able to vote Green for a fairer and better society.
David Kirwan is the Green Party candidate for Broxtowe.
As with all comment, this does not necessarily reflect the views of PinkNews.
More: Bisexual men, Gay, gay and bisexual men, gay men, green party, HIV, hiv infection, hiv testing, hiv transmission, HIV-prevention, men who have sex with men, MSM, national aids trust, Public Health England, Terrence Higgins Trust