Terrence Higgins marks birthday

JOHN PLUMMER

The Terrence Higgins Trust has marked its 20th anniversary by issuing a report stating 20 things the Government should do to help people with HIV.

The report, which will be sent to every MP, is the main strand of the charity's campaigning activities that aim to maximise publicity generated by the milestone.

Other initiatives include releasing new figures highlighting the "shocking

level of ignorance that still surrounds HIV and outlining plans to use the trust's web site to train volunteers to become more effective local campaigners.

The trust's chief executive Nick Partridge believes the 20 demands, which range from restoring HIV and sexual health as a health priority area to making condoms freely available in prisons, are realistic and non-costly goals.

"Each require a small change in the law or government regula-tions of some kind; they do not require vast amounts of money,

he said. "Changes such as the development of a National Service Framework for sexual health and HIV would do much to ensure that these important areas of public health get the priority they so urgently need."

The report was released on the 20th anniversary of founder Terrence Higgins' death on 4 July 1982 at London's St Thomas' Hospital. A day earlier, Health Secretary Alan Milburn visited the hospital to unveil a plaque commemorating the man whose name has helped personalise the illness.

Since its foundation in 1982, the trust has grown from a few volunteers to a charity with 200 staff.

But despite its rapid growth and achievements, the new ICM survey provides a timely reminder of how much still needs to be done on the awareness front alone. It reveals:

- Almost a third of 18 to 24 year olds think there is a cure for HIV;

- One in four people think you can catch HIV through kissing;

- Two-thirds of the public don't believe young people are given enough information about the risks of unprotected sex.

Paul Ward, the trust's deputy chief executive, said: "Twenty years after Higgins died with Aids, this level of ignorance about HIV is shocking. Sex education in this country is failing a whole generation of people."

Full details of the online initiative are yet to be revealed but campaigns and policy officer Martin Kirk said: "We're looking at ways of how to best get access to decision makers such as politicians and directors of public health."

More than 15,000 people in the UK have died with Aids since Higgins and 50,000 are infected. The number of people living with the disease is expected to rise by 50 per cent over the next five years.

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