Annie Lennox met with the Mayor’s Advisor on Health and Youth Opportunities Pam Chesters at City Hall in London yesterday, as part of a roundtable bringing together representatives of HIV organizations and people living with HIV.
The first to have taken place since Annie Lennox’s appointment as the Mayor’s unpaid London Ambassador for HIV, the aim of the roundtable was to begin developing a program of activity to tackle the challenges faced by people affected by HIV. Key issues they discussed were the promotion of positive attitudes towards sexual health amongst young people and the impact of stigma on whether individuals get tested or seek treatment.
Pam Chesters said: ‘This has been a very productive meeting, bringing together people with expertise and personal experience. With the majority of people living with HIV in the UK being in London – many of them undiagnosed – the Mayor wants to identify ways to address what is still a serious health and social issue as part of our overall plan to tackle health inequalities in the capital.’
More than 40,000 people are estimated to be living with HIV in the capital, 27% of them undiagnosed. In many cases this is likely to be due to the stigma that may be associated with HIV, something that Annie Lennox is keen to challenge.
Annie Lennox said: ‘Even in this day and age and with the treatments that are available, stigma remains a serious problem. Many people are simply too scared to seek advice, get tested or disclose their status. I am especially concerned about how it impacts on women, young people, as well as minority communities, who may be more vulnerable and not have access to networks of support. It’s not only distressing for those immediately affected, it increases the potential for onward transmission and for other health problems.’
The Mayor of London, who originally met Annie Lennox in 2009, published the capital’s first Health Inequalities Strategy earlier this year, which sets out measures aimed at improving the health of Londoners.
The Mayor of London Boris Johnson said: ‘I was delighted when Annie suggested becoming an HIV Ambassador for London. Her profile of course is important, for increasing public awareness of this major issue, but of greater importance is her knowledge, her experience and – fundamentally – her dedication and commitment. Our goal is to develop a clear and consistent approach that will make a real difference to Londoners’ lives.’
The roundtable that met today included representatives from a range of organizations, including Terrence Higgins Trust, National AIDS Trust, African HIV Policy Network and Body and Soul. The GLA anticipates broadening the number of those involved as it develops its HIV program with Annie Lennox.