Permanent memorial to those lost to the AIDS crisis to finally be unveiled
A permanent memorial for those who lost their lives to the HIV and AIDS crisis will have its home in London’s Tottenham Court Road.
The sculpture will sit in Tottenham Court Road near the former Middlesex Hospital, which was where the UK’s first AIDS unit was opened by Princess Diana in 1987.
The hospital was the spot where, in front of the world’s media, Princess Diana shook the hand of an AIDS patient without wearing gloves. The moment challenged the irrational fear that HIV and AIDS could be transmitted through casual contact.
The memorial will hopefully be unveiled around World AIDS Day 2021 in December – 40 years since the first cases of AIDS were reported – and will be the first such monument in London.
Campaign group AIDS Memory UK said the artwork – which is called the “Tree of Resilience, Resistance and Resonance” – will connect with “several existing memorials in the UK” to “create a symbol of national remembrance’.
Campaigner Ash Kotak told the BBC it will be a reminder that the “fight to end AIDS worldwide continues”. He explained: “HIV is more than a virus because society’s view of people living with HIV is so negative.
“There is still so much abuse towards people living with HIV despite those on with sustained, working medication cannot pass on the virus to anyone else.”
On the memorial’s GoFundMe page, Kotak said he “lost many friends to AIDS” and that “each death was a tragedy”. He continued that his friends’ “resilience and fight to live and find meaning in their curtailed lives was inspirational”.
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Kotak said: “In creating a memorial, we are celebrating their strength, their love of life and the battle they fought against stigma, abuse and the most horrible illness.
“They cannot be forgotten. HIV and AIDS changed the UK and the world and their fight made us a better and more inclusive nation. We must always remember that.”
The AIDS Memory UK monument fund has received almost £5,500 of the £15,000 the group says it needs to develop the artwork for the “landmark” memorial.
Fitzrovia News reported the memorial will be near the University College Hospital, the successor to Middlesex Hospital, and the Mortimer Market Centre’s Bloomsbury Clinic, which is one of the busiest HIV treatment centres in the UK.
It will also sit near the James Pringle House, a clinic for the treatment of sexually transmitted diseases and which saw some of the first cases of HIV in London.