Officially opening the National African HIV Prevention-NAHIP Conference in London, Mr Kirby who is the Member of Parliament for Brighton Kempton, said the All Party Parliamentarian group want the delivery of national programmes to help increase knowledge and improve safer behaviour among young people, gay men, African communities and people living with HIV.
“Be in no doubt, African communities can help shape this agenda” Simon Kirby said as he officially opened the conference whose theme this year, is “Influencing Change through Knowledge, Will and Power”
The parliamentarian, who is also the Vice Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on HIV and AIDS said the NAHIP conference provided an opportunity for all the delegates to learn from each other, to discuss good practice and to gain greater understanding of how to effectively respond to the diverse needs of Africans living in the United Kingdom.
“At a time when we know there will be challenges right across the political, social and economic landscape, we must decide to speak with one voice and act now with shared vision, goals and purpose” Simon Kirby said.
Formed in December 1999, the All Party Parliamentary Group on HIV and AIDS-APPG, is a group in the UK parliament composed of politicians from both House of Commons and House of Lords and representing a mixture of political parties.
Simon Kirby said The MPs and Peers who have chosen to join the group have done so out of concern about the devastation that HIV and AIDS is causing, both in developing countries across the globe and in the UK, where approximately 83,000 people are living with HIV.
The Member of Parliament stressed that as HIV/AIDS is an issue which affects individuals and their families in every constituency, the members of parliament are collaborating in recognition of the role that they need to play in addressing the epidemic, in policy making, in public health and in supporting their constituents.
Simon Kirby said the group believes that HIV/AIDS is one of the most serious threats facing the world at the beginning of the 21st Century. He said that it is vital that all parliamentarians in industrialised as well as developing countries play a part in addressing the epidemic and work together to give a coherent, effective response.
The parliamentarian pointed out that the parliamentary group has an important role to ensure that laws and policies are respectful of human rights, and in particular, to promote and discuss public health.
He added that the All Party Group has recently written to the Minister for Public Health, Anne Milton, encouraging the British government to ensure that the former AIDS Support Grant remains as a named grant to local authorities.
“The group pointed out that because HIV is a stigmatized condition, it is particularly vulnerable to local cuts and it is difficult to mobilize patients to speak out publicly about their needs since many people living with HIV/AIDS are already stigmatized because of their race or sexuality” Simon Kirby said.