MP reveals he is HIV positive in move to tackle stigmaIvy Madziva
Lloyd Russell-Moyle’s personal Commons speech highlights advances in treating condition.
The Labour MP Lloyd Russell-Moyle has used a debate in the Commons to announce he is HIV positive, making a personal speech he said was intended to tackle the stigma still associated with the condition.
The first parliamentarian to make such an announcement in the Commons, and the second MP to announce they are HIV positive, Russell-Moyle said he was diagnosed 10 years ago, when he was 22, and that medical advances meant he could live an entirely unaffected life.
“I wanted to be able to stand here in this place and say to those who are living with HIV that their status does not define them,” Russell-Moyle, the MP for Brighton Kemptown since 2017, said in a speech that drew tributes from many other MPs.
“We can be whoever we want to be, and to those who have not been tested, maybe because of fear, I say to you: it is better to live in knowledge than to die in fear.”
At the end of his speech, MPs in the Commons stood and clapped, even though applause is officially not permitted in the chamber.
The former Labour minister Chris Smith who was the UK’s first openly gay MP when he entered the Commons in 1983, announced he was HIV positive a few months before leaving parliament in 2005.
Speaking in an adjournment debate to discuss the upcoming 30th World Aids Day, Russell-Moyle said the anniversary “gives us pause to reflect how far we have come, and to remember those we have lost”.
He continued: “But such events are also deeply personal to me. Next year I will be marking an anniversary of my own – 10 years since I became HIV positive. It has been a long journey, from the fear of acceptance and today, hopefully, advocacy, knowing that my treatment keeps me healthy and protects any partner that I may have.”
The MP described learning the news: “You get that call from the clinic and they just say: ‘You need to come in.’ They don’t tell you the details, and you know immediately that something is going to be wrong.
“In that NHS room, with the cream carpets and the plastic seating that we all know, they tell you. And it hits you like a wall.”
He added: “You walk out feeling totally numb, with a million things going through your mind, and at the same time a sense of absolute nothingness.”
Russell-Moyle said he decided to speak out after meeting people at an awards ceremony in Brighton who run a group for HIV positive people, and to increase awareness of the condition and how it can be managed.
Medical advances in treating HIV were “one of the greatest success stories of recent times”, he said, adding: “I have a perfectly healthy life. So my announcement here today should go totally unnoticed.”
Among the MPs to respond was Jeremy Corbyn. The Labour leader paid tribute to Russell-Moyle, and said more should be done globally for HIV.
“We need to send a message out from this House of Commons: this country has changed its attitudes, we have done a great deal medically to help people, we need to ensure that the rest of the world understands that we can do the same for every other country in the world,” Corbyn said. “We have to close our minds to prejudice and open our minds up to human rights and justice for people all across the globe.”
In a later statement, Corbyn said: “Lloyd has shown enormous courage today. I know the whole Labour party is proud of him.”
Ian Green, the chief executive of the Terrence Higgins Trust, said: “We’re extremely grateful to Lloyd, and his decision to use his platform to help us work toward zero HIV stigma and zero HIV transmissions in the UK.”
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