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Keeping our focus

 

We’re doing a happy dance at The Food Chain this week!

How fantastic to have the brilliant contribution of our volunteers recognised and celebrated with a Team London Award in the Environment and Healthy Living category. So well deserved, and a tribute to the thousands of people who have made our services possible over the last three decades. Thank you, all.

We held our Annual General Meeting in October, and this gave us the opportunity to reflect on the work we are doing at The Food Chain, and the changes that are taking place in the HIV sector as a whole.

The latest figures produced by Public Health England show a continuing drop in the number of people being diagnosed with HIV throughout England and Wales, with a particularly significant reduction of 29% in London in diagnoses of men who have sex with men. This is real evidence that combination prevention is working. This development makes the end of new HIV diagnoses in the UK a real possibility, in a way we have not known before. It is truly good news.

At the same time, we know from the work we do every day at The Food Chain that this news has little significance for the people we support. Our conversations in the kitchen are not so much of the good news, but more of the harsh realities of daily life that at times beggar belief but which are cruelly true.  

Experiences of stigma, serious illness, poverty, homelessness, depression, anxiety and hunger are every day matters for our service users.

There is a risk that our sector’s good news story in the UK will cast a shadow on the community of people living with HIV who need our continuing support and care, and make them invisible.

We must not let that happen. Instead, we must keep our focus and, more than ever, highlight the needs that we know are still there.  Our Board of Trustees is holding its annual strategy day in November and this will be our focus. As our 30th anniversary year approaches in 2018 our commitment is as strong as it was in 1988. People living with HIV today need access to food and nutrition support and The Food Chain will continue to respond to this need with compassion and care, to the very best of our ability.

We are also busy this month preparing for the display of the UK AIDS Memorial Quilt to mark World AIDS Day. This year the panels will be on display in Westminster Hall in Parliament between  Monday 27th November – Saturday 2nd December. They can be viewed by the public between 9am-5pm each day. I do hope you may get a chance to come and see the panels, or to volunteer to support the exhibition. The memorials contained within the panels speak eloquently of our history. Without the activism and involvement of the thousands of people involved in the creation of this living work of art, it is unlikely that so much progress would have been made so quickly in combatting the HIV epidemic. Spending time viewing the panels is time well spent.