Police chief Tony Lloyd has urged Greater Manchester to show solidarity this World AIDS Day against discrimination, prejudice and hatred aimed at HIV sufferers.
On Monday, Greater Manchester’s Police and Crime Commissioner Mr Lloyd will be at the traditional candlelit vigil in Sackville Gardens where he will lay a red ribbon wreath in memory of those lost to HIV/AIDS.
Figures show there are currently 7,625 people living with HIV in the North West and the Police and Crime Commissioner believes it is time to bring an end to the ‘unacceptable’ hatred they face.
Mr Lloyd said: “World AIDS Day gives us the opportunity to fight prejudice and demonstrate our support to those living with HIV.
“We are fortunate that so many advances have been made in HIV treatment, but people living with the virus still face discrimination, prejudice and hatred.
“This is unacceptable, and I would urge anyone living with HIV who has been a victim of hate crime to come forward and report it with the confidence that action will be taken.”
Campaigners say it is vital people get diagnosed early as fast treatment gives people the best chance of living a prolonged and healthy life.
Last year 41% of those diagnosed were asymptomatic – showing no signs of illness. However, 8% of those diagnosed had developed an AIDS related disease by the end of the year.
HIV testing is free and Manchester City Councillor Carl Austin says the statistics serve as a reminder that more can be done to combat the spread of HIV/AIDS.
“World Aids Day is an opportunity for people around the world to unite in the fight against HIV,” said the lead on gay men’s issues on Manchester City Council.
“With early detection you can expect to live as long as someone who is HIV negative but HIV does not discriminate and everyone can take action by regular testing and being HIV aware.
“We can all show our support for those living with HIV and commemorate those lost to the virus this World AIDS Day,” he said.
Red ribbons, the international symbol of solidarity for those living with HIV, will be carried during the procession, which starts at 5:30pm in Sackville Gardens.
A candlelit vigil around the park’s spiralling stainless steel column, The Beacon of Hope, will follow the march and the Red Ribbon Wreath will remain in place with lit candles on the beacon after the event ends.
Mr Lloyd added: “This is a moment of reflection as we come together and celebrate loved ones lost.”
A BME community church service will be held at 5pm on Monday, at St Ann’s Church to say a prayer for the people who are living with HIV and AIDS and to remember those who have died from the illness.
Artwork from local schools raising awareness of HIV/AIDS will also be on display behind the Beacon of Hope.
Starting at midday on Monday, Manchester HIV charity George House Trust
will launch Positive Radio
, an internet radio station specifically for and about people with HIV/AIDS.
Over the course of two weeks, the station will broadcast hundreds of pre-recorded radio programmes that have been produced in Greater Manchester.
George House Trust is the oldest HIV charity in the UK outside of London.
Users of their services will share over the two weeks their own thoughts on many subjects ranging from discrimination to stigma, and promoting the need for anyone concerned to get tested for the virus.
HIV testing is confidential and easily available at your local hospital, walk-in clinic, your GP and a number of community settings across the city.
To find out details of your local clinic click here
Image courtesy of Flabber Degasky, with thanks