The ninth annual Red Run in London brought together 40 HIV charities and organisations on Saturday to raise money for HIV support. According to Positive East, 50,000 Londoners live with HIV still.
Saturday, December 1 marked the 30th annual World AIDS Day, a day set aside to support those living with HIV and to commemorate those who died from an AIDS-related illness. This year’s event was themed “Know Your Status,” encouraging people to get tested for HIV.
Londoners took part in the event during the World AIDS Day Red Run, a charity 10k/5k in Victoria Park. Organised by Positive East, an charity whose mission is to: “improve the quality of life of individuals and communities affected by HIV,” the Red Run had about 2,000 attendees and was able to raise £103,000 across the 40 charities involved in support of HIV awareness and services.
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan attended the run and cut the start ribbon. Khan wore a red ribbon in support of people living with HIV and spoke at the beginning of the event.
Khan said: “The Red Run is a fantastic event that raises awareness and funding for HIV organisations across the country. It’s vital that we support the excellent work being done to end the stigma surrounding HIV and AIDS and improve the lives of people living with HIV in our city.”
Ian Montgomery, Fundraising Manager at Positive East said there have been huge strides in HIV treatment, with UNAids recently reporting that the UK have reached the 90-90-90 target. The target, which was set for every country in the UN, challenged nations to diagnose at least 90 per cent of people with HIV, have 90 per cent of those diagnosed treated, and ensure that 90 per cent of those treated will experience viral suppression and will not be at risk of infecting other.
According to Montgomery, while reaching this target is monumental, there is still work to be done.
Montgomery said: “HIV is still very much linked to income inequality, and you can see that statistic here in the UK. So, in boroughs that higher instances of deprivation also have higher HIV rates for a myriad of reasons: access to information, access to treatments, understanding of what’s considered risky behaviour, and mental health issues.”
In addition to organising the Red Run in London, Positive East works with people living with HIV to reduce the internalised stigma that they may feel to increase their wellbeing
“Through that we provide about 2,000 people per year with access to counselling, peer support, group support, clinical psychology, health and wellbeing activities,” Montgomery said. “We have an information and advice services which helps people access the housing and benefits that they’re entitled to.”
With a younger generation now facing the risk of HIV, Montgomery said one of the biggest challenges organisations like Positive East face is complacency.
“There’s a whole new generation of young people who weren’t on the front lines in the 80s and 90s,” Montgomery said. “They didn’t see it first-hand, so this idea of HIV and AIDS is historical, almost mythical to them. It seems like it doesn’t really apply to them anymore, which isn’t the case. Getting young people to listen is the difficult thing.”
In a way, Montgomery said the success of previous advocates in spreading awareness and affecting change in medical advancements contributes to this.
Montgomery said: “Thankfully a lot people fought very hard historically so that younger generations wouldn’t have to worry, but it’s almost like we we’re a victim of our own success in a way. Despite the reduction of new diagnoses, 50,000 Londoners are still living with HIV, 103,000 in the UK and 35 million worldwide. Clearly there’s still a lot of work to be done to make sure that people who are diagnosed with HIV in London have access to the services they need to live well with HIV.”