MPs and peers celebrate National AIDS Trust’s 21st birthday

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Lord Fowler was among the guests at a Houses of Parliament reception for the National AIDS Trust yesterday.

The event was attended by MPs and peers from all the major political parties.

Dame Denise Platt, chair of NAT, said that Lord Fowler, the Secretary of State for Health in 1986 under Margaret Thatcher, was responsible for the government’s robust initial response to the AIDS epidemic.

She described him as instrumental in the foundation of NAT to represent the needs of people living with HIV – and at that stage dying of AIDS.

Dame Denise spoke movingly about the dire future for HIV positive people in the early days of the epidemic.

While progress has been made, especially in drugs to control the virus, she said there was much to do.

She raised the issue of discrimination in schools against children with HIV and the need to make condoms and needles available in prisons.

Justice minister Bridget Prentice said that the upcoming Equality Bill would bring more protection for people living with HIV and paid tribute to her boss, Secretary of State for Justice Jack Straw.

He was an early advocate for AIDS causes.

NAT also launched a new report at the event, HIV – All grown up?

It said that more than 100,000 people will be living with HIV in the UK by 2010.

More heterosexuals are diagonsed every year than gay or bisexual men. The number of black Africans receiving treatment in the UK has increased tenfold in a decade to 20,600 in 2007.

It also pointed out that people with HIV are now living much longer lives, but that one in ten gay men in London are positive.

NAT wants increased engagement by the gay community with HIV issues and compulsory sex and relationships education in all schools with includes gay relationships and policies to tackle homophobic bullying.

The event was hosted by Gregory Barker MP, Shadow Minister for Climate Change.

Among the MPs in attendance were Shadow Cabinet member Jeremy Hunt, Labour’s Doug Naysmith, Jim Fitzpatrick and David Borrow, Lib Dem frontbench spokesman Stephen Williams, Tories Richard Spring and Nigel Evans and the party’s candidate for Brighton Pavilion, David Bull.