David Cameron: We must tackle the stigma and discrimination associated with HIV

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Prime Minister David Cameron has written a message of support for World AIDS Day today, commending the steps forward made in the UK, and calling for more action to be taken around the world in the fight against HIV and AIDS.

The message was posted to the World AIDS Day website alongside video messages from Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and Leader of the Opposition Ed Miliband.

In his message, the Prime Minister says he was proud to see many MPs in the House of Commons wearing a red ribbon in solidarity with those living with HIV around the world.

He said despite medical steps forward it was regrettable that the “quality of life” for those diagnosed with HIV is “too often still eroded” by discrimination.

Ending the message, he pledges to hold a meeting with Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt and experts and leaders in the field, to find out “what more should be done.”

The full message from David Cameron is available to read below.

At Prime Minister’s Questions on the 26th November I looked around the chamber of the House of Commons and was struck by the number of MPs who, like me, were wearing a red ribbon.  The ribbon is the universal symbol of HIV awareness and it was good to see so many MPs showing solidarity with people who live with HIV in the UK and around the world.

British charities, scientists, social services, doctors and nurses have often led the way in dealing with HIV.  From bringing it to public attention initially, fighting passionately for respect and treatment, through to current campaigns aimed at increasing testing.  These are people are to be applauded for their commitment, innovation and passion.

The UK has a proud track record of leading the fight internationally; last year we supported 1.9 million people with treatment for AIDS and 32,000 children benefited from child-friendly HIV/AIDS medicines. I am proud that as a nation we are keeping our commitments to the poorest in the world.

At home, great strides have been made. We have seen an increase in the level of testing; in 2013 over a million tests took place in sexual health clinics, up 5 per cent on the year before, and under this government we have removed the ban on the sale of HIV self-testing kits this year which has increased the choice on how to get tested.

But we must be alert to the problems that remain. Whilst the overall number of new diagnoses last year was down slightly on 2010, there was an increase amongst men who have sex with men. And a quarter of people living with HIV don’t know they have it.

I am absolutely clear that there can be no complacency in our fight against HIV and AIDS. Although people living with HIV can expect to live a long and healthy life if diagnosed early, their quality of life is too often still eroded.

Government has its part to play here and so I’ve asked the Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, to host a meeting in Downing Street that will bring together leading experts to look at what is working and what more should be done.

This World AIDS Day the red ribbon is about more than showing solidarity with those living with HIV in the UK and abroad; it should also be a spur to increase testing and a symbol of our commitment to carrying on work to reduce infection levels whilst tackling the stigma, discrimination and prejudice often associated with HIV and sexual health.