As Terrence Higgins Trust marks 30 years, Boris Johnson backs HIV testing campaign

19 November 2012

The Mayor of London Boris Johnson is backing a major HIV testing campaign in the run up to World AIDS Day on 1 December. HIV and sexual health charity Terrence Higgins Trust, which marks its 30th anniversary with a reception at City Hall on 19th November, has launched England's first ever National HIV Testing Week. The week runs from 23-30 November and aims to increase testing among the most at risk populations, gay men and Africans in particular.

The Mayor said: 'London is home to almost half of all people living with HIV in the UK, but a quarter of them are unaware they carry the virus. It is vital that people who might be at risk get tested, not only to reduce the risk of transmission to others, but to ensure they get the life-saving treatments that are available.'

The Mayor's HIV Ambassador Annie Lennox said: Stigma, fear and complacency are the greatest obstacles to people seeking out their HIV status. This is why Terrence Higgins Trust and the Mayor of London have taken this initiative to encourage those most at risk to take the HIV test.  Knowing your status can literally be a life saving action.'

Gay men and Africans remain the groups most at risk of HIV in the UK, with around 1 in 20 people from both groups infected with the virus. That number rises to one in seven among men on the London gay scene. A quarter of people with HIV in the UK remain untested and unaware they have the virus.

Terrence Higgins Trust, which is co-ordinating National HIV Testing Week as part of HIV Prevention England's Think HIV campaign, is marking 30 years at the forefront of campaigning on HIV and sexual health with a reception at City Hall, attended by Annie Lennox, the Deputy Mayor for London Victoria Borwick and other community activists, including people living with HIV.

Watch Annie Lennox's World Aids Day video message:

Sir Nick Partridge, Chief Executive of Terrence Higgins Trust, said: 'Terrence Higgins Trust was founded by a handful of people in a flat in London 30 years ago. Today we provide services for thousands of people every year and London remains at the centre of the HIV epidemic in the UK.

'We are delighted that the Mayor and his Ambassador are backing our campaign to encourage more Londoners to get tested and to drive down rates of HIV in the capital. We are determined to work together with the Mayor’s Office and local councils, to strengthen the capital’s response to HIV.'

Deputy Mayor for London Victoria Borwick commented: 'Terrence Higgins Trust continues to play a key role in educating people so they can protect themselves against HIV, as well as providing advice and support to people living with and affected by HIV. I hope this year's campaign for World AIDS Day will encourage anyone with concerns to seek out advice and get tested.'

City Hall is hosting a reception later today (Monday 19 November) to mark 30 years since Terrence Higgins Trust was set up. It will be attended by the Mayor's HIV Ambassador Annie Lennox; Sir Nick Partridge, Chief Executive, Terrence Higgins Trust; Deputy Mayor for London Victoria Borwick; as well as people living with HIV and community activists. 

Notes to editors

  1. Terrence Higgins Trust is the UK's largest HIV and sexual health charity with centres across England, Scotland and Wales. We're here to provide information and advice about HIV and sexual health and offer a range of services including sexual health checks, counselling and support groups. We campaign for a world where people with HIV live healthy lives, free from prejudice and discrimination, and we promote good sexual health as a right and reality for all. For more information go to www.tht.org.uk. For press enquiries, please contact Will Harris on (020) 7812 1629, or email will.harris@tht.org.uk.
  2. National HIV Testing Week (NHTW) runs from 23-30 November and is an initiative of HIV Prevention England, the new national HIV prevention programme for England. HIV Prevention England is funded by the Department of Health and co-ordinated by Terrence Higgins Trust in partnership with Black Health Agency for Equality, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, MBARC, NAM Publications, and Yorkshire MESMAC.
  3. There are around 100,000 people living with HIV in the UK, nearly 50,000 of them in London. Many Londoners are still reluctant to seek advice, get tested or talk openly about HIV.
  4. Around half of Londoners with HIV are diagnosed at a late stage of infection, when they have been living with the virus for some time. Getting a very late diagnosis means a person is nine times more likely to die within a year of receiving their diagnosis than someone who tests in good time. People starting treatment early can expect a near normal lifespan and are less likely to pass the virus on unwittingly.

MEDIA ENQUIRIES: media seeking additional information should email culture&community@london.gov.uk or call 020 7983 4070 

GENERAL PUBLIC/NON-MEDIA ENQUIRIES: Call the Public Liaison Unit at the Greater London Authority on 020 7983 4100

DUTY PRESS OFFICER: For out-of-hours media enquiries, please call 020 7983 4000