British soul singer and actress Beverley Knight MBE has been announced as a patron of the UK’s leading HIV and sexual health charity, Terrence Higgins Trust.
A vocal supporter of HIV awareness and the work of Terrence Higgins Trust following the passing of her close friend from an AIDS-related illness, Beverley will use her role to help end HIV transmission and to support people to live well with HIV in the UK.
Soul singer and actress Beverley Knight said: “I lost a very good friend, Tyrone, in 2003 from an AIDS-related illness, and that loss still affects me very deeply now.
“Tyrone leaned on Terrence Higgins Trust quite heavily because of his own HIV status, and he’s the person that brought the charity and their great work to my attention.
“Today, HIV is not the death sentence it once was. Treatment works very effectively, meaning people who are HIV positive can live very long, very happy and very fulfilled lives – but as long as they know they have HIV and have treatment, and that’s the key.”
Beverley, whose latest album, Soulsville, features the song When I See You Againinspired by her late friend Tyrone, has spoken out publicly about the impact of HIV stigma and how it can put people off testing for the virus.
“I think the main challenge around HIV is stigma – stigma is terrible,” added Beverley. “It’s a real problem because until we get past the stigma we can’t get people to admit to themselves that they could or do have the virus, and therefore need to have a test and get effective treatment.
“Some people just don’t think it will ever happen to them, so that’s why HIV awareness needs to be at the forefront of people’s minds now more than ever.”
With one in seven people living with HIV unaware they have it, testing early for the virus is vital to getting people onto effective treatment to ensure they are healthy, and to stop them passing on the virus to others.
Beverley added: “I hope that there is enough passion and experience in what I say, so when I speak about HIV people will listen. I want to rouse people from their slumber and get them to face the reality of HIV head on instead of putting their heads in the sand.”
Ian Green, Chief Executive of Terrence Higgins Trust, said: “We are honoured to welcome Beverley Knight as a patron of Terrence Higgins Trust.
“Beverley has been a longstanding supporter of the charity and has passionately campaigned to help stop HIV stigma and to ensure people with HIV live healthy and long lives.
“We are truly grateful for the unique contribution Beverley makes to people living with HIV, and we’re looking forward to continuing our work together as we aim to bring an end to HIV transmissions and to stigma.”
Lord Cashman CBE and Lord Black of Brentwood were also announced earlier this years as new patrons of the charity. They will join an eclectic group of current patrons including Stephen Fry, Tracey Emin and Dame Judi Dench.
There are currently over 100,000 people living with HIV in the UK. Today, advances in HIV medication mean that people with the virus can live long and healthy lives, however the devastating impact of stigma cannot be underestimated.
Recent YouGov surveys by Terrence Higgins Trust show that attitudes to HIV are outdated: 30 per cent of British adults believe you can get HIV from sharing a toothbrush, while 40 per cent would be uncomfortable going on a date with someone living with HIV on effective treatment. Only 9 per cent are aware that people on effective HIV treatment cannot pass it on.
Beverley’s new album Soulsville is out now, and she will be touring the UK in October 2017. To find out more visit www.beverleyknight.com.