Darren Knight at Pride


In the spirit of World AIDS Day, Darren Knight, Chief Executive of George House Trust, sheds light on the pervasive stigma surrounding HIV and the collective responsibility we share as a community to become better allies.

World AIDS Day

World AIDS Day is marked on the 1 December each year and is an opportunity to remember those we’ve lost to HIV, to remind people of the local and global inequalities relating to HIV, to reflect on the progress made in the HIV response and to look forward with hope to the future.

As the Chief Executive of a HIV support organisation, World AIDS Day is a pretty important and busy day. The reality is that for those working in HIV and affected by HIV, it can be a bit of an echo chamber. For us, the most important day of the year doesn’t register on many people’s radar and if we truly want to end HIV stigma and discrimination, that’s got to change.

The fact is, HIV has changed. Anyone can be affected by HIV and everyone should be educated on both the virus and the impact of HIV stigma. People living in the UK and diagnosed with HIV have access to medication that will ensure that they can’t pass HIV on if they have an undetectable viral load [meaning that the amount of HIV is so low it can’t be passed on]. They will lead a normal life expectancy . They can join the army, have children and do the jobs they choose. People living with HIV can do anything.

There is still more work to do

Whilst we’ve seen significant progress, we’re still dealing with the compounding impact of HIV stigma and discrimination. For many people living with HIV, they’re still scared of sharing their status, they’re scared about other people finding out about their status or they feel totally unable to be open about their HIV. This is because,  still today, people living with HIV face discrimination in healthcare, in education, in work and all aspects of life. From being refused services to facing judgmental attitudes. People don’t have the psychological safety to be open about having a long-term medical condition, unlike other similar conditions such as diabetes or asthma; equally manageable, equally long-term  but unparalleled in stigma.

This is why it is important to mark World AIDS Day and even more important that organisations like Pilotlight mark the day. Each year, Pilotlight connects with hundreds of businesses and charities. As a beneficiary of Pilotlight, I’ve had the opportunity to educate the Pilotlighters that we worked with , and they’ve taken the time to understand the complexities and issues faced by people living with HIV. I was also invited to deliver a workshop for the whole Pilotlight Team on inequalities and HIV.

We can only sort HIV by working together

That’s why I’m writing this blog for Pilotlight this World AIDS Day. I want every single organisation that they work with, to be aware of the health inequalities that disproportionately impact some of the most excluded groups in society. If you believe in ending inequality then you’ll be educated, outspoken and informed about HIV on World AIDS Day.

And every single other day.

So this World AIDS Day, wear a Red Ribbon, let people know HIV has changed and play your part in ending HIV related discrimination and stigma.

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Written by
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Darren Knight
Chief Executive - George House Trust

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