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World Aids Day 2018

November is very much a time for reflection and remembrance for me. 

As we approach the 30th anniversary of The Food Chain and of World Aids Day I am thinking not only of those friends I lost to HIV in the 1980s and 90s but also of the hundreds of people I have met over this past six years at The Food Chain. For many we have helped them move out of crisis and this is to be celebrated. 

But I’m also thinking of the many people who have not made it through to a place where they are able to live a long and healthy life with HIV. The people for whom HIV has had a devastating impact and whose lives have changed dramatically because of HIV.

Every year we lose people along the way in tragic circumstances.

This year we have supported a mother of 3 children who took the decision to stop taking her medication and subsequently became sick and died during her time on service with us.

We also got to know well a man in his fifties, one of our regular Eating Together attendees, who struggled with depression and finally reached the point where he chose to end his own life.

For both these people my reflection is that their lives ended prematurely and that despite the best efforts of many good people involved in their health care and support it was just not possible for them to live well with HIV.

There are many people in London who would be deeply shocked to learn that HIV still has this impact on people’s lives. Everything we hear and read about HIV in the public sphere tells us that people are living long and well, that it is an easily managed condition.

However, there are people in our Food Chain community who have become invisible in the wider world and are at risk of being forgotten by all but those in our sector who provide direct support, as we do.

On Christmas day this year, thirty years on from the day on which the very first home-cooked meal was prepared by Food Chain volunteers, we will once again gather at our kitchen near King’s Cross to prepare a delicious festive feast for 50 guests whose lives have been radically altered by their HIV diagnosis and for whom living well with HIV is not a present possibility. This is a fine tradition, and one we can be proud of.

It seems to me it is also our task, at The Food Chain, to highlight the needs of people who arrive with us in crisis and who, sometimes, don’t make it through. To keep them visible in the world and to name them amongst those lost to the virus.  

For them and for us, HIV is by no means over.