A Labour MP has spoken of thinking how it was some “horrible joke” when doctors told him he had HIV.
Lloyd Russell-Moyle. the MP for Brighton Kemptown, became the second MP to ever announce he had HIV in 2018, when he delivered an emotional speech in the Commons.
In an interview with GB News, due to air on Tuesday, he recalled wishing the diagnosis was “a kind of nightmare that you wake up from, but it’s not”.
Mr Russell-Moyle, 35, who said he came out as gay as a teenager but had known about his sexuality in primary school, said when he was diagnosed with HIV when he was in his second year of university that “in most people’s minds, it was still a death sentence, so it was still something very tragic”.
But he said he had eventually decided to speak about it publicly as “keeping things hidden in politics tends to be the road to ruin”.
Referencing the only other MP to have publicly spoken about having HIV, Chris Smith, Mr Russell-Moyle said: “He announced it when he knew he was retiring, but also partly announced it because the papers had got hold of the story, and I felt like I wanted to be on the front foot.
“I wanted that burden off me, I didn’t want to be having to look over my shoulder.”
But he said the country was also at “a crux point where we could abolish HIV transmissions”.
He said of 20 people newly infected with HIV in the last year in Brighton, only three were new transmissions with the remaining all historic cases where people had lived with it without knowing.
He said the three new cases were passed on from historic cases.
“So, if we treat those people – once you’re on treatment you can’t pass it on – and so, it means that you stop being able to get new infections, and we could quite realistically… and Brighton has got a high number of HIV diagnoses compared to some other towns and cities the same size, because of historic reasons and the community… we could really do that. We could really achieve that,” he said.
The MP said while that was a “miracle of science compared to where we’ve got in 30 years” he also warned against “a danger that we’ve dropped at the last hurdle” and the last groups of people were not reached.
He said although times had changed since he was diagnosed, remembering how “you kind of think this is some horrible joke, you wish it was a horrible joke”, he said there was a fine balancing act to be achieved when discussing the condition.
He said: “We don’t want to go around saying, ‘oh, don’t worry about it anymore, you don’t need to use any protection, we can just treat it with a pill’. But equally, we want to dispel the kind of fear around it, so that we say to people ‘if you do have it, it’s not a problem’.”
He added: “Thankfully we have come now to the debate, which is about what costs the least amount of money, and what saves the most amount of lives. Well, it’s about providing the medicine when you can and in a wealthy country like ours, we can.”
The full interview with Gloria De Piero will air on GB News at 12.30pm on January 25.