Labour MP Lloyd Russell-Moyle has revealed he is living with HIV in an emotional speech to Parliament ahead of World AIDS Day.
The Member of Parliament for Brighton Kemptown, who was elected in 2017, opened up about his HIV-positive status on the floor of the House of Commons on Thursday, two days before World AIDS Day.
Speaking during an adjournment debate on HIV, he said: “Next year it will be 10 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 hope that my coming out serves to defy the stigma around the disease.”
— Lloyd Russell-Moyle
In his speech, the MP read quotes from people who described people as “fags getting what they deserve,” calling out those who “weaponise HIV to attack LGBT people” and perpetuate LGBT stigma.
The MP added: “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.”
He added: “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 praised Lloyd Russell-Moyle
The leader of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, said in a statement: “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.”
HIV campaigners welcomed the move
Ian Green of Terrence Higgins Trust said: “We’re extremely grateful to Lloyd, and his decision to use his platform to help us work toward zero HIV stigma and zero HIV transmissions in the UK.
“It is so important for people living with HIV to be better represented across public and political spheres, and as a serving MP to be openly living with the virus, Lloyd is already impacting positive change.”
Lloyd Russell-Moyle spoke about living with HIV
The MP is believed to be the first to come out as HIV-positive on the floor of the House of Commons.
Lloyd Russell-Moyle is a member of the All Party Parliamentary Group on HIV/AIDS, which works within Parliament on a cross-party basis to further the cause of HIV prevention and treatment.
Labour MP Chris Smith was first to speak about living with HIV
The first MP to acknowledge they are living with HIV was Labour’s Chris Smith, who spoke about being HIV-positive in a Sunday Times interview in 2005, shortly before his retirement from the House of Commons.
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The former MP, who now sits in the House of Lords as Lord Smith of Finsbury, explained in 2013 that speaking about his HIV status was “a whole lot more difficult” than he had anticipated.
He said: “One of the things that happened was the Sunday Times found out and they were going to run a story and I talked with the editor.
“This was a couple of years before I eventually decided to speak out about it. And I said, ‘Actually, I don’t think I’m ready to do this yet.’
“‘I can absolutely promise you that when I am, I will come to the Sunday Times to do it but it is against the editorial code that you reveal someone’s health details without their consent, and I’d much rather you didn’t.’”
He added that it was Nelson Mandela’s speech on HIV awareness that “tipped him over the edge” to eventually talk about it.
UK has hit HIV prevention targets
Data released ahead of World AIDS Day revealed that the UK has become one of the first countries to meet UNAIDS targets for HIV prevention, as efforts to tackle HIV/AIDS prove dramatically effective.
Public Health England (PHE) recorded a drastic fall in new diagnoses of HIV in the UK, with just 4,363 new cases diagnosed in 2017.
This represents a 17 percent year-on-year decrease, highlighting successes from the World AIDS Day efforts.
The reduction has been attributed to the success in HIV prevention efforts among men with have sex with men, with PHE citing increased condom use, frequent HIV testing, and the use of HIV-prevention drugs (PrEP).