Prime Minister: HIV stigma is an unacceptable stain on our society

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Prime Minister Theresa May has warned about the “unacceptable stain on society” of HIV stigma, in a message for World AIDS Day.

The Prime Minister’s words come a day after shocking derogatory comments about HIV were made by Northern Irish MP Sammy Wilson.

In an email to a constituent who had asked him to back the World AIDS Day campaign, DUP politician Mr Wilson claimed that the government spends too much money fighting HIV/AIDS, claiming the disease is the result of “lifestyle choices”. He suggested HIV prevention money would be better spent on people with diseases which are “not always as a result of lifestyle choices”.

In her official World AIDS Day statement, Prime Minister Theresa May hit out at people who perpetuate stigma around HIV, branding it “an unacceptable stain on our society and we have to wipe it out.”

Mrs May said: “As Prime Minister, I am proud to wear a red ribbon on World Aids Day, to show my support for people living with HIV in the UK and all across the world.

“I am proud too of the role that the UK has played in driving advances in the treatment and prevention of HIV, including of course through the brilliant care and support of our NHS which makes such a difference in the lives of people living with HIV.

“But for all the progress in treatment and prevention, public attitudes have not progressed as far or as fast.

“The latest UK HIV Stigma Index found that almost 1 in 5 respondents living with HIV in the UK have had suicidal thoughts in the past 12 months. While around half reported feelings such as shame, guilt and low self-esteem in relation to their HIV status.

“This stigma is an unacceptable stain on our society and we have to wipe it out.

“Stigma is not just profoundly wrong. It also prevents many of those affected from accessing the testing, treatment and support that they need.

“Today around 2 in 5 people are diagnosed late – after the point at which treatment should have begun, with a significant impact on their long-term prognosis.

“Tackling stigma is one of the ways that we can change this.

“So I am proud to support this year’s campaign. HIV stigma is not retro, just wrong.

“I urge you to join me in taking a stand and leaving this stigma where it belongs: in the past.”