While major cities around the world have memorials commemorating those we’ve lost to AIDS, including New York, Paris, Hong Kong and Amsterdam, London, a city that was at the heart of the AIDS Crisis in England, does not. But that might change. London’s new mayor, Sadiq Khan, is being urged to back a national memorial in the capital city, and according to the Standard, the project was backed by all parties from the London Assembly. Now, campaigners are trying to get Khan and other government officials to back and fund the project. One of the loudest campaigners fighting to bring the memorial to light is Ash Kotak, who lost his partner to the disease in 1995.
“Today, whilst much stigma remains, memories fade and mental health issues continue with some living with HIV,” Kotak said to the Standard. “A fitting immovable memorial stamps a solid mark commemorating a tumultuous time in British, London and World History. London is an international city.”
Sian Berry, another supporter who presented it to the London Assembly, added, “London was at the heart of this country’s AIDS epidemic, which affected so many people, their loved ones and their friends. It’s also where some of the most pioneering treatment and prevention methods are being carried out today. A dedicated memorial would pay to the people we lost, as well as recognizing those living with HIV now.”
In the United Kingdom, people living with HIV have a six times higher risk of death than the general population, and despite the nation’s free healthcare, people are still dying of AIDS complications at alarming rates.
According to Avert.org, 101,200 people are living with HIV in the United Kingdom, and while 96 percent are currently receiving antiretroviral therapy, late diagnoses remains a key challenge. In 2015, 594 people died due to AIDS complications.
As a result of the memorial campaign, a spokesperson from the Mayors office released a statement saying, “Thousands of Londoners from different communities have been affected by HIV and AIDS. In his manifesto, the mayor promised to renew his focus on the prevention of and screenings for HIV,” adding, “The mayor believes it is important to commemorate and recognize causes fought for by Londoners of all walks of life.”