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London hosts iconic AIDS Quilt display in memory of lives lost 

This summer it will be 40 years since the first reports of what is now known as HIV and AIDS. The UK AIDS Memorial Quilt Partnership is joining up with Fast-Track Cities London to curate the largest display of the UK AIDS quilts in London since the early 90s.

These beautiful and irreplaceable pieces of social history will be on display to the public the first two weekends of July in London at Acorn House, Gray’s Inn Rd, Kings Cross St Pancras.

This display will honour the lives lost to AIDS and remind us that HIV is still with us today. It is a call to action to challenge HIV stigma, highlight what it means to live with HIV in 2021 and support those living with HIV.

The quilts remind us how far the UK has come in the fight against HIV but how much there is still to be done to tackle stigma, reduce new infections, particularly in vulnerable communities, and support those living with HIV to lead long and healthy lives.

‘It’s a Sin’ cast member and HIV activist Nathaniel Hall will attend the launch event. Nathaniel says:

“In the era of HIV medication and with all our eyes firmly on the goal of ending new transmissions by 2030, it is important to take time out to reflect on our recent history. The quilt is our community’s connection to the past, to the lives cut tragically short by HIV. In the midst of another global pandemic, taking a moment to pause with the quilt reminds us of the human cost of HIV both here in the UK and across the world, whilst allowing us space to dream of a future free from HIV.”

The author and activist Paul Burston remembers gathering with others to make a quilt panel for his friend Vaughan Michael Williams. Paul says:

“I first met Vaughan in 1987. He was the first person with HIV I knew personally – the first of far too many. Someone suggested we make a quilt panel in his memory. It was very emotional. It was people coming together to express their love and shared sense of loss. The quilt is such a powerful reminder of all the lives lost to AIDS. We need to remember them.”

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, partner in Fast-Track Cities Initiative for London, says:

“Since the virus was first identified 40 years ago, HIV/AIDS has had a devastating impact on communities in London and across the world. Millions have tragically died, and many have had to live with the stigma of what was once a terminal diagnosis. These quilts serve both as a memorial to those we have lost, as well as a reminder of the suffering that is still faced today. Infections continue and those living with undiagnosed HIV are some of the most vulnerable members of our society. I have pledged to do everything in my power to end new transmissions of HIV in London by 2030, and I am confident that we can achieve this if we continue to work together.”

Professor Kevin Fenton, Co-Chair of Fast-Track Cities London and London Regional Director for Public Health England, says:

“As Co-Chair of Fast-Track Cities London, I am so pleased that this important anniversary is being marked in such an impactful way. It’s vital that we remember all the people who are represented by and through the memorial quilt. As we honour them, we are also clear and focused on the fact that HIV is still very present today and we must continue to support those living with and affected by it. While much has changed in 40 years and we have thankfully come a long way in regards to diagnosis, treatments and outcomes, we’re not done yet. All of us working through Fast-Track Cities, and our partners across London are committed to making sure everyone with HIV is living well, but also achieving zero new HIV infections, zero preventable deaths and zero stigma by 2030.”


Free tickets for the event are available on eventbrite here https://bit.ly/2R8tIHW

People can get involved on social media using the hashtag #AIDSQuiltUK  #40yearsofHIV

The event has been organised by a coalition of charities known as the UK AIDS Memorial Quilt Partnership and includes George House Trust, Terrence Higgins Trust, Positive East, The Food Chain, Positively UK, Waverley Care and Sahir House, with support from Fast-Track Cities London.

For more information about this event and the UK AIDS Memorial Quilt Partnership, please contact Siobhan Lanigan at aidsquiltuk@foodchain.org.uk, 07930 674 868.


Photocall – Friday 2nd July 2021, launch event 4pm

Invited guests from the HIV sector across the UK, will join together with some of the original makers of the quilt panels to open the display on Friday 2nd July at 4-6pm.

If members of the media would like to attend, please contact Siobhan Lanigan at aidsquiltuk@foodchain.org.uk, 07930 674868.


Notes to editors:  

The UK AIDS Memorial Quilt is a precious artefact. Each of the panels commemorates lives lost to the AIDS pandemic during the 1980s and 90s. It is a public naming of loved ones lost, and a memorial for the many who died and went unnamed too. It is part of an international movement that sought to raise awareness of the impact of the AIDS pandemic and ensure that these lives would never be forgotten.

Fast-Track Cities London is part of a global movement of cities to end HIV by 2030. The Mayor of London joined NHS England, London Councils and Public Health England to sign up to this commitment in 2018. Since then, London has formed a £3 million improvement community made up of 12 projects covering 22 voluntary sector organisations and 9 NHS Trusts. It has brought together everyone working to end HIV with people living with HIV, the NHS, London’s Councils, doctors, nurses, public health experts and academics. The roadmap to zero is a jointly designed action plan that shows the steps London will take to get to zero new cases of HIV, zero preventable deaths and zero stigma. Find out more here: https://fasttrackcities.london/


Useful facts about HIV

HIV is a virus which attacks the immune system and weakens the body’s ability to fight diseases.

In 2019, it was estimated that there are 105,200 people living with HIV in the UK.

  • 94% of these people are diagnosed, and therefore know that they have HIV. This means that around 1 in 16 people living with HIV in the UK do not know that they have the virus.
  • 98% of people diagnosed with HIV in the UK are on treatment, and 97% of those on treatment are virally suppressed which means they cannot pass the virus on. Of all the people living with HIV in the UK, 89% are virally suppressed.
  • There is still a great deal of stigma about HIV. Stigma is damaging as it prevents people from getting tested, from accessing treatment and from living a happy and healthy life.
  • The most common way HIV is transmitted is through sex without a condom.
  • You cannot get HIV through casual or day-to-day contact, or kissing, spitting or sharing a cup, plate or toilet seat.
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