Myline: Tom Matthews I remember when...

There were only two cities in England where people living with HIV could meet.

There was no statutory funding for HIV.

Peer support groups began springing up throughout the United Kingdom.

‘The concept of self-help is as valid today as it was at the start.’

Then came statutory funding and at last some of those voluntary sector HIV services had parity with the services that were being established within the NHS and local government.

Then came the withdrawal of the ring fenced HIV Health Funds and the  same thing happened to the local government’s AIDS Support Grant. I always  wondered why as the payers of both national taxes and local community charges, it was only possible to meet our needs through the provision of “special  funds” ?
With the infamous “credit crunch” everyone suddenly started to face some of those realities that we had grown used to living with.

I have, and will always continue to argue, that people living with HIV should receive the same quality of services as every other citizen and I think we need to return to the  “old” days when our commitment and enthusiasm was continually under pressure. Those days when we literally had to fight for everything we received.

I also believe we should once again remember why we so veraciously refused to be labelled victims; the concept of self-help is as valid today as it was at the start.

This should remind us that there are certain things that we can provide for ourselves, in  a much more effective way than any paid worker – support, understanding and the ability to empower each other.
Let’s remember where we started and learn from our experience. We have a history, of which we should be proud.

Maybe the future need not be as bleak as some would have us believe?