‘This conversation is essential’: Black voices challenge stigma around HIV as thousands diagnosed late

Medical professionals, activists and media personalities come together to challenge the stigma associated with HIV within black communities ahead of World AIDS Day. 

The talk, Spreading Awareness of HIV, was held at Lambeth Town Hall, in Brixton Hill, Brixton, on November 13, to raise awareness of the experiences of those living with HIV – with a special emphasis on the Black African and Caribbean communities.

The sell-out event, scheduled ahead of World AIDS Day on December 1, was attended by more than 70 people and included a panel discussion featuring Richie Brave – host of BBC 1Xtra Talks.

Mr Brave said: “I think this conversation is essential as people living with HIV have been stigmatised for too long. 

“Some of my own friends both male and female, have been reluctant about sharing their positive status due to fear of judgement. 

“It’s important that we have conversations within our communities that are both informative and culturally relevant.”

According to the People Living with HIV (PLHIV) Stigma Index many people still believe that HIV is a “death sentence” and only exists within certain communities.

The most recent Government data shows that in 2021 there were 36,767 people in London living with diagnosed HIV. 

In London, Lambeth had the highest prevalence of HIV, followed by Southwark. 

Between 2019 and 2021, 39 per cent of people in London diagnosed with HIV were diagnosed late, which the Government said is “of particular concern”.

By ethnic group, 57 per cent of black Africans were more likely to be diagnosed late compared to 32 per cent of the white population.

The talk was organised by Love Sex Life – an initiative led by Brook charity to address the barriers Black African and Caribbean communities face when accessing sexual health services.

Samantha Telemaque, Brook’s manager on the Love Sex Life project said: “We are thrilled at the turnout for this event for World AIDS Day. 

“It’s so important for the community here in South London to have such open and honest conversations about what is still often seen as a taboo subject. 

“We hope events like this will destigmatise HIV and challenge the many myths and misconceptions that still persist about the virus.”

Pictured top: From Left, Richie Brave, Ninma Sheshi, Dr Grace Bottoni, Dr Nneka Nwokolo (Picture: Nathaniel Télémaque)

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