We ended 2019 in good heart at The Food Chain, and had the most amazing Christmas Day in the kitchen. Every single person I have spoken to about the day, whether a service user, staff member or volunteer has told me it was a wonderful, enjoyable day full of generosity, high spirits and good food!
What a tribute to the huge number of people involved in making it possible, and a fantastic celebration of a year in which our future was uncertain. We are still a little overwhelmed and very grateful for the way in which so many individuals and organisations with the shared purpose of sustaining our crucial services, came together in 2019 and helped steer us to a safe landing at the start of 2020.
We can now embark on our future planning on a firmer footing.
We know there are still challenges and changes ahead. For instance, this really will be the year when we move to a new kitchen!
We will also need to continue our work in building partnerships with like-minded colleagues across the public and charitable HIV sector to ensure the needs of the most vulnerable people living with HIV in London continue to be met, for as long as there is need.
London has signed up as a Fast Track City with the aim of achieving zero new infections, zero preventable deaths and 100 per cent of people living well with HIV in London by 2030.
This is a good ambition and The Food Chain will do all we can to help achieve it. We know a great deal about what it means for people to not live well with HIV.
- It is being hungry and having no food and no money to buy any.
- It is not having a home, but sleeping on night buses and in shop doorways, whatever the weather.
- It is being told you are not eligible for welfare support, or having your benefits stopped because you were in hospital at the time of an appointment you missed.
- It is jumping barriers at tube stations because you have no money to get to The Food Chain kitchen for the only hot meal you will get this week
- It is disclosing your HIV status to someone you meet at The Food Chain for the first time since your diagnosis, many years earlier.
- It is feeling so afraid of everything in your life that the only place you feel safe is The Food Chain kitchen.
- It is choosing not to take your anti-retroviral medication because you would rather die than stay alive.
These are all real moments in the lives of the people we have supported in the past year. They are more than a statistic or a category. They have names and faces, feelings and families, and they have lives to lead. They must be at the very centre of our purpose and ambition.
It is only by achieving equality of access to treatment and effective support services for everyone living with HIV that we can hope to banish stigma, prevent new HIV infections and make it possible for everyone to live their lives to the full.