Today is 19 years we are together. This is also the year I turn fifty. My life has been defined by you, there is no denying it. You have pushed me in so many directions. The highest and the lowest. I never felt so lonely and damaged like 19 years ago. But today you connect me to an amazing community of people that in spite of fear, suffering, illness and stigma, have risen, resisted and flourished.
PrEP is exciting, new, and currently, unique. It is not a vaccine, although it has a similar impact. We can draw comparisons to statins, in terms of preventing illness, or contraception, in terms of preventing unwanted consequences of sex. But actually, there is nothing quite like it. It is the definition of healthcare innovation. The NHS should be falling over itself to get the benefits, which makes today's response all the more regrettable.
This admirable pledge, which comes with a promise to 'leave no-one behind', will remain no more than a slogan. People who use drugs are being left behind and only a major injection of political courage, backed up by a redirection of the necessary resources away from drug control and into harm reduction, will change this.
What I have seen in the last few days in Lesotho gives me huge confidence that we will rise to this challenge. Seeing young people who have so little, yet who work so hard to support their friends and educate their families about HIV, continues to inspire all of us at Sentebale. They are why I care so much about this fight. I hope that their stories of courage, and not just the huge problems they face, can inspire all of you as well. What I believe is that we cannot beat HIV without giving young people in every country the voice they deserve. Without education and without empowerment, HIV will win.
Too many members of the gay community, with our hard-won marriages, our adopted kids, our newfound respectability, regard the guys who haven't yet got there as traitors. Letting down the side. Tainting the gay brand. Doing what the homophobes accuse us of. Let's not be Pharisees. Let's welcome our gay brothers into the fold and protect them from what is still the most serious consequence of sexual risk. Let us save them from HIV. Let us offer them PrEP.
I met Sebenele, a bright 14 year-old boy with a big smile, this week during a visit to Swaziland to see how my fund is helping UNICEF to support and protect children living with HIV. Swaziland has the highest rate of HIV infection in the world. Twenty-four per cent of children here have lost one or both parents to AIDS and many are themselves now living with HIV. I thought about my own children and how in many ways the things Sebenele enjoys are the same things they do. Yet he told me how he is struggling to continue to take his antiretroviral medicine, which is vital to ensure he stays healthy, because he can't keep the pills down without any food.
At the last High Level Meeting on Ending AIDS in 2011, the coalition government sent a delegation led by Minister Stephan O'Brien. But sadly, this time round, no minister from the UK Government will attend. In addition, the Department for International Development (DFID), the lead department for this UN meeting, is not planning to send a senior member of staff either. In the context of a meeting that is expected to be well attended by ministers and even presidents from some countries, this sends a bad message about the importance the UK places on a successful High Level Meeting.
As duty bearers of human rights, it is the responsibility of states to ensure that their citizens are able to realise their rights. The High Level Panel's recommendations are set to come out in June and will be addressed to heads of state. It is yet to be known whether these recommendations will have an accountability mechanism attached to them so it may well fall to civil society to hold governments to account.
In David Cameron's back yard, Oxfordshire County Council has cut Terrence Higgins Trust's £50,000 funding, which is forcing the closure of its local centre. The reality is that there are will be no HIV Prevention and Support service in the whole county after April 2016, with almost 500 people left with no alternative support service.
By cutting public health budgets in-year by £200 million, the government has put enormous pressure on local authorities to make significant savings. Worryingly these savings are surfacing as cuts to services for people living with and at risk of HIV, leaving the more than 103,000 people in the UK living with a long team health condition with reduced local support facilities.