Globally, 37 million people are living with HIV. In the UK, on average 15 people contract the virus every day.
Although HIV medical care is now excellent and affordable, more than 1 in 10 people living with HIV don’t know their status because they haven’t been tested.
Andrew Bates was one of them.
When Andrew went to his doctor with a high fever, rash, ulcers, and swollen glands, he expected to be told he had flu. Instead, the 21-year-old was sent for an HIV test that came back positive.
“I didn’t feel an initial shock or horror because I knew so little about it. I didn’t know what it meant.”
“You just think ‘that won’t happen to me.’ You hear about it in other countries and from other times,” Andrew told Evening Standard reporters.
Andrew says that his awareness of HIV was limited, despite being a young gay man. He did not have a gay network growing up, and his school curriculum did not offer LGBT-inclusive sex education, nor a discussion of HIV.
Andrew’s story speaks directly to the importance of the #AIDSfree campaign that the Elton John AIDS Foundation is launching with the Evening Standard and the Independent.
The Foundation supports educational HIV prevention programmes around world, and ensures that the most vulnerable populations have access to the information and resources they need.
When these initiatives are implemented, lives are transformed.
Andrew was put on medication one week after his diagnosis. He takes two tablets each day and needs two blood tests a year. Now, the virus is undetectable in his blood and cannot be passed on.
“When I was diagnosed I didn’t know what would happen – if it would be a death sentence or if I would be poorly for the rest of my life, but it is the opposite. I am better than ever before in my life.”
Donate today to help us reach people like Andrew.
Through UK Aid Match, the UK government will double public donations up to £2 million to be spent across projects in Maputo and Nairobi.
£5 provides vital HIV testing information to those at risk
£20 will pay for a self-testing kit so those stigmatised can receive the help they need
£100 will ensure someone with a positive diagnosis is given the right treatment