Yesterday the speakers took the long drive back to London from Lancaster (and experienced their first snowstorm on the way!) for our parliamentary event with the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on HIV and AIDS.
The evening kicked off to a great start with an opening speech from former leader of the Green Party, Caroline Lucas MP, who was chairing. It was wonderful to hear that she was so passionate about Stop AIDS and was keen to hear what the speakers had to say, describing them as the ‘human faces that remind us why the fight against AIDS is so important’.
Despite their nerves – and a small distraction when Caroline had to step out to vote, Jay, Daisy and Nick did brilliantly as always. They spoke with honesty, courage and humour and it was clear from the faces of the audience how moved and inspired they were. Ben Simms, director of Stop AIDS said how humbling it was to hear such honest stories and suggested that we could learn a great deal from the speakers, something which I’m sure who was heard them talk would certainly agree with.
Saoirse finished off the talk with a short summary of our new campaign and a call to action to fight the Free Trade Agreements which could restrict access to medicine: ‘health is a human right and if decisions are made in our name which compromise this we must do something about it’. Caroline agreed, saying that the EUs commitment to human rights often gets left behind in the face of commercial trade agreements.
We had perceptive and inspiring comments and questions from all attendees, and everyone was very keen to chat to the speakers afterwards. An attendee from the Terrence Higgins Trust asked Daisy to what extent she experienced stigma and violence when starting to tell her clients of her HIV status. Daisy responded by saying that she experienced a mainly positive reaction from her clients, who were generally just grateful for the information she had given them. However, she said that initially her colleagues were largely negative towards her, and would sing songs about her to put her clients off – although this meant that she would get all the clients as the others were too busy shouting at her to look for business!
We were also joined by Sheila Gilmore, Labour MP for Edinburgh East, who seemed very interested in what the speakers had to say and was supportive of our campaign.
After the event we headed to a pub with the Stop AIDS staff to celebrate our success and congratulate the speakers on their amazing speeches. There’s no time to rest though as today they are heading straight back up north to Leeds to continue the tour!