Lord Smith: The Sunday Times was aware I was HIV positive – and agreed not to publish it for two years

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

Britain’s first openly gay MP Lord (Chris) Smith of Finsbury, has spoken up on the difficulties he faced coming out about his HIV status, revealing that the Sunday Times had agreed not to publish any stories on the matter for two years until he was ready.

Appearing at BNP Paribas Diversity Week as a Keynote Speaker Lord Smith was asked how easy or hard it was for him to speak up on his HIV status.

Smith, who was the first MP to publicly acknowledge that he is HIV positive in 2005, told the audience that it 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.

He said: “The way we really can confront HIV and AIDS is by talking about it, and by telling people about.”

He also revealed in his speech that Tony Blair, whilst Prime Minister, needed “persuading” that legalising the age of consent, and repealing Section 28 were the right things to do.

The former Labour MP for Islington South and Finsbury, who came out in 1984, was awarded Freedom of the Borough back in 2010.

Labour life peer and Chairman of the Advertising Standards Authority, Lord Chris Smith, last year stood in solidarity with the ever-growing list of people who have filmed a video for the Out4Marriage Campaign.

The PinkNews Awards will take place in the Palace of Westminster on 23 October, and its supporters include BNP Paribas. The bank celebrated its Diversity week between 7 and 14 October 2013.