Terrence Higgins Trust, the UK’s leading sexual health charity, is marking 41 years since the death of its namesake Terry Higgins.
He passed away at the age of 37 on 4 July 1982 and is one of the first people known to have died from the AIDS virus in the UK.
“His boyfriend Rupert buried him using his student loan to pay for the funeral,” the charity wrote on Instagram on the 41st anniversary of his passing. “At the time, HIV didn’t have a name, let alone a test. Rupert’s questions were dismissed by doctors because of their sexuality. He had to look up Terry’s cause of death in a medical journal.”
Terry’s friend and partner ultimately channelled their grief and anger into activism and created Terrence Higgins Trust.
At the time, it was impossible to predict the impact the HIV/AIDS epidemic would have on society, though Terrence Higgins Trust has been at the forefront of the fight and helped countless people over the last four decades.
Now, the end of the epidemic is in sight, with England aiming to end new HIV transmissions by 2030.
“We can be the generation to end the HIV epidemic”
Speaking to GAY TIMES at Pride in London, Richard Angell, Chief Executive of Terrence Higgins Trust, says raising awareness of this target is important “because it is possible, but not probable.”
“It is something that we can do,” he continued. “We can be the generation to end the HIV epidemic, but we’ve got to put our shoulders to the wheel. Our message to the government is, don’t just do one good project like they’ve done with opt-out testing in London, Brighton, Manchester and Blackpool, but do it countrywide because it’s working and it works for everyone. It’s good for money, it’s good for testing, it’s good for getting people diagnosed and good for getting people out of treatment.”
Newly released data recently showed that, in just 12 months, more than 1,998 people have been found with HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C as a result of opt-out testing in the very highest prevalence areas mentioned by Angell after the government allocated funding for it as part of its HIV Action Plan in 2021.
The initiative also found an additional 470 people who were previously diagnosed, but were not receiving the life-changing treatment available.
“And when the politicians are watching in, it isn’t just about the pretty flags, it’s about the important message that we’re sharing as well and they need to know this can be their legacy,” Angell continued. “We’ve got one more parliament to go if we want to end this epidemic by 2030. They can be the difference we need to see and we could be the first country in the world to do it and it could be the first virus that stops the onward transmission without a vaccine and without a cure. We cannot miss that opportunity.”
You can donate to Terrence Higgins Trust here.