PRIDE AND POLITICS
Welcome to our latest newsletter!
We've been busy onboarding the new team and kicking off with our plans for 2023, and with that, we're bringing back the monthly newsletter! We have some big things planned, so keep your eyes peeled..
Elena Rose Bunbury, Chair and Editor
A FOCUS ON SAFE SEX & TESTING
STI TESTING IS STILL IMPORTANT TODAY
VC Membership - Laura Gherman
In 1986, a public information film was released by Her Majesty’s Government featuring what can only be described as a short 40 second horror movie showing the world descending into chaos, at the hands of aids. The advert is remembered as horrifying and sending chills down the spines of children and young people when it first aired. It is hard to imagine a similar public information campaign featuring just as much fire and destruction as this clip, even in the age of a post pandemic world.
The aim of the video was to scare people, which is why it was so horrifying. According to Normal Fowler, the Health Secretary from 1981-87, this advert had been called so scary that it put off a whole generation from having sex. Unable to promote the practice of safe sex, or testing on national television, the video references a leaflet and insists that reading it could almost be a matter of life and death. The leaflet featured a gigantic gravestone with ‘AIDS’ written over it.
Aids was surrounded by much taboo during those days, and in a conservative country like Britain, public information campaigns had to be somewhat original and creative when it came to spreading their message without directly saying what it is that needed to be said. The video starts with a volcano, as a symbol of it being the end of the world. Interestingly, the film director, Nick Roeg was chosen to produce this vintage masterpiece specifically for his talent in gloomy sci-fi films, and in their original plans, the film was going to start with the beginning of a nuclear war. Thatcher intervened, considering this a tad too overdramatic.. Understandably perhaps, given the timing of the Cold War.
It is perhaps one of the darkest chapters in the history of our party to remember the relationship we had with LGBT+ rights under Thatcher, and beyond. Unsurprisingly, many LGBT+ people died from aids and active steps were only taken, to quote the video, because ‘so far it’s been confined to small groups but it’s spreading.’ It’s chilling to think that phobias could make a whole generation of people overlook the deaths of gay people with such ease and only take action once aids started spreading to heterosexual people.
No one in the Conservative party is proud of this history, and after years of policy making and changed societal values and views, the Conservative party has done much to redeem itself when it comes to LGBT+ rights. In fact, on gov.uk the Government is advertising that everyone who is offered HIV testing by their healthcare provider is advised to accept it with some further advice on HIV testing.
I would go further than the Government advice on this and urge everyone to get tested. Whilst HIV is more likely to be caught by practicing unsafe sex and sharing needles, other STI’s can be caught more easily, and unfortunately, there is a lot of STI’s going around, and remembering how you can catch every single one of them is impossible.
Now, full discretion, I am neither someone who tends to practice unsafe sex nor someone who shares, or even uses, needles. I have never had a drug problem and I never slept with multiple partners and overall, I have always taken a responsible approach to my sexual health because you can never be too sure and I have been brought up in Britain where subconsciously, I somehow always understood just how important it is to be careful and responsible over my own health.
Without dwelling too much into my personal life, I still test at least once a year for all possible STI’s and far from being ashamed of talking about it, I brag about this and encourage all of my friends to do it. I do this because sexual health is important, and I take active steps to ensure I am healthy for me and for my partner.
As a country, we have moved on so much from the times when the 1986 public information film aired that STI testing which tests you for everything under the sun are available for free online, or plenty of other locations. It has never been easier to look after your sexual health than it is today, and we should be fully enjoying this luxury; a luxury that was not available to many before us.
Campaigners during the aids epidemic succeeded in promoting the practice of safe sex, and for me, it has really normalised consistent STI testing today, perhaps in large part, as an indemnification for the pain of those who struggled, those who were invisible, and those who tragically did not make it.
BRINGING HIV TESTING TO THE MASSES
Nicola Richards MP, West Bromwich East
When our colleague Steve Brine launched the report of the HIV Commission, his top ask was for HIV testing to become normal and routine. On World AIDS Day 2020, the now chair of the Health Select Committee recommended that when anyone is already having their blood taken in A&E, the NHS add a HIV test in the lab.
A year later Sajid Javid was pledging £20 million for it to happen in the areas with the very highest HIV prevalence. The results are staggering – 238 were newly diagnosed with HIV and 124 were diagnosed before but lost to the care of an HIV clinic. That's nearly 400 people not being made ill by the virus, who cannot pass it on to others. The first eight months represent about £6m spent by NHS England but represent a minimum of £15 million in costs saved from early treatment. This is a no-brainer!
With all that is happening in A&Es right now, I know I first asked: ‘Can we really ask Emergency Departments to take on any more?’ However, it is minimal work for A&E staff, so it relieves pressure rather than creates it. When Croydon Hospital first started its A&E testing, the average stay in the hospital of someone newly diagnosed with HIV was 34.9 days, it is now just 2.4 days.
The only problem with a success on this scale is that is exposes the areas not benefiting. National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) say this should happen not only in London, Blackpool, Brighton and Manchester but in my constituency and the 30 other local authorities with a ‘high’ HIV prevalence.
The government has tough decisions on health funding to make in the coming months. Opting to fund more opt-out testing for HIV will make a difference as soon as April. It will put England well on track to end new HIV in this decade – all on our watch.
Sign the Terrence Higgins Trust open letter to get opt-out testing to areas like mine: https://tht.eaction.org.uk/makeeverycontactcount
THIS YEAR LET'S MAKE LGBT CONVERSION THERAPY HISTORY
Kieran Aldred - Head of Policy at Stonewall
This LGBT+ History Month marks three very important anniversaries for the UK. This year is the 10th anniversary of the vote on same-sex marriage, one of the most significant moments for LGBTQ+ people in the UK. It is also the 35th anniversary of the introduction of Section 28, an infamous amendment that would blight the experiences of LGBTQ+ young people during the deadliest years of the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
The 25 years between these Conservative pieces of legislation were the most transformative in British history for public and political attitudes towards the LGBTQ+ community. It can be easy to take for granted that the UK is now broadly a welcoming and accepting country, where it comes as no surprise that our Parliament boasts the highest proportion of LGBTQ+ representatives in the world.
Such rapid positive change does, unfortunately, breed complacency. The idea that equality for LGBTQ+ people was achieved with the same-sex marriage vote is seductive, an attractive “and they all lived happily (gaily?) ever after” ending. But the reality is that there are still far too many LGBTQ+ people in the UK today facing harassment, abuse and violence because of who they are. Whether it’s the increase in hate crimes we are witnessing across the country, or the incessant transphobic narratives pushed through the newspapers echoing their homophobia of the 1980s and 90s, we must balance the celebration of how far we’ve come with the determination to never stop until we all are safe to be who we are.
The third anniversary of this LGBT+ History Month is the 5 years since the Conservative Government promised to ban conversion therapy. We now, finally, have the promise of a Bill and one that will protect the trans community. Both Government and Parliament must ensure this ban protects all those who are at risk of such abuse, with no loopholes for victims to be left without protection.
After years of waiting, it is time to consign conversion therapy to the history books. We all have to work to make that happen, so in the future we have one more legislative achievement to celebrate.
WELCOME TO THE NEW VC CANDIDATES FUND
VC Candidates Fund - Lee Marsons
I am very pleased to join LGBT+ Conservatives as Vice-Chair with responsibility for the Candidates Fund. The Fund has been an important vehicle for expanding LGBT representation in the Conservative Party and I am looking forward to developing this even further. I thank in advance the excellent team who will be helping me do this.
I am a Senior Researcher at the Public Law Project (PLP), a national legal charity focused on advancing access to justice, the rule of law, and the accountability of government bodies. Over the last couple of years, I have been focused on the government’s changes to judicial review, proposals to reform the Human Rights Act 1998 (HRA), and future policy on membership of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). I want to bring these skills with me to LGBT+ Conservatives, to enable us to develop a stronger, rigorous research and policy profile in areas that matter to our members.
In terms of my priorities for the Candidates Fund, my first task will be to reinvigorate the Donors’ Club, with a wider range of tangible benefits for those generous enough to contribute to that stream of income. My second priority is to be more transparent with members about what good the Fund is doing. In the short-term, this will involve a series of interviews with politicians who benefited from the Fund in the recent past, making clear what impact the Fund had on their campaign. My third priority is to explore what income can be developed beyond the usual the suspects, from options such as foundations, trusts, and philanthropic initiatives.
My Twitter handle and email is linked below and I would be very happy to have conversations about how to develop the Fund and make it a more accessible and meaningful vehicle for all LGBT Conservatives with political ambitions.
I look forward to working with you all!
PARLIAMENTARY COFFEE MORNING FOR LGBT+ HISTORY MONTH
Liam Bruce - General Council
This week LGBT+ Conservatives will hold our first-ever Parliamentary Coffee Morning at the beginning of February. The start of LGBT History Month is the perfect time to get our MPs, Peers, and most importantly our Patrons together for a catch-up over coffee and pastries.
Since LGBT History Month was founded in 1994, the month of February has been a time to reflect on the shared histories and experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people around the world. This year we knew we had to mark it in some way.
Our event will kindly be sponsored by one of our brilliant patrons Gary Sambrook MP.
It will be the first chance we've had, this year, to get MPs, Peers, and Patrons in a room together to dole out some merch, bend some ears and sign our pledge boards. We hope that this will just be the first of many such events in the months and years to come.
THE MAYOR OF LONDON SPENDS £116,000 A YEAR ON A NIGHTLIFE TSAR WHILE VENUES CONTINUE TO CLOSE
Liam Robert Black - Deputy Chair - ConservativeHome