Elton John and It’s a Sin cast demand Tories keep their promise to finally end HIV epidemic

HIV campaign It's A Sin

Elton John has joined forces with It’s a Sin stars Olly Alexander and Callum Scott Howells in a powerful new film calling on the government to take action against HIV.

The film, released by the Elton John Foundation, Terrence Higgins Trust and National AIDS Trust, urges the government to fully fund its promise of ending new transmissions of the virus in the UK by 2030.

With 80 people still diagnosed with HIV in the UK every week, the charities are asking fans of It’s a Sin to write to chancellor Rishi Sunak and health secretary Sajid Javid and call on them to “fund the fight” against the disease.

“There are at least 6,600 people who are living with HIV but are not diagnosed,” Olly Alexander said. “I urge the government: do not miss this opportunity. Fund the fight. Take the decisions required to end new cases of HIV by 2030.”

The hit Channel 4 drama about the early days of the AIDS epidemic galvanised thousands of people to get tested for HIV, many for the first time in their lives. According to Terrence Higgins Trust, the show led to a surge in orders for free HIV test kits during this year’s National HIV Testing Week.

Now it’s hoped that viewers will further the cause and make an even bigger impact by demanding action to end HIV in the UK once and for all.

Russell T Davies, creator of It’s a Sin, said: “The show has had a bigger impact than we ever dared hope. My initial motivation was to tell stories of love and loss that had gone untold for far too long. But it’s clear how much has still to be done in 2021.

“The response to what we created has been overwhelming, but too many people’s views and knowledge of HIV are still firmly rooted in the 1980s.

“If we can play even a tiny part in helping to change that while supporting the work of charities and activists to end new HIV cases in this country by 2030, then what a wonderful legacy that would be.”
The campaign comes after 35 major charities, LGBT+ groups and health bodies delivered a damning letter to Rishi Sunak, highlighting that 1,000 days after committing to ending the UK’s HIV epidemic, the government has yet to “turn these words into action”.

“Every week 80 lives in the UK are changed forever because they are diagnosed with HIV,” the letter states. “It has now been 40 years since the first cases of HIV were reported and, despite huge medical advances which mean HIV is no longer a death sentence, preventable cases of HIV are still happening.

“It doesn’t have to be this way. You have the power to change this in the upcoming Comprehensive Spending Review – you can help to end the HIV epidemic in the UK. It has been nearly 1,000 days since the government committed to doing this by 2030. The clock is now ticking.”

The government’s HIV Action Plan still has not been fully financed, the letter says, and more funding is desperately needed to expand HIV testing, increase funding for HIV prevention, strengthen support for those living with the disease and establish national prevention programmes and campaigns.

These campaigns must inform and educate people about the realities of the virus in 2021, stopping stigma and sharing more widely the effectiveness of treatment and Undetectable=Untransmittable messaging.

UK residents can write to the chancellor and health secretary calling for proper funding for ending new HIV cases by 2030 in just a couple of minutes using a template here.