“In these days when politics seems to divide us, we stand here united to support our friends living with HIV and AIDs.” exclaimed Sir Ian McKellen to resounding applause during his speech at Positive East’s Red Run event for World AIDS Day.
At Victoria Park on Saturday, local people, charities, and drag queens came together to fundraise for 35 charities across the United Kingdom who support those living with HIV and AIDS. Those taking part in the Red Run were asked to to run, walk or even just sashay five or 10 kilometres.
Actor and campaigner McKellen told Eastlondonlines: “It is illuminating to see the Memorial Quilt of the people we lost in the early days…it is also remarkable how much has changed over the years, because of people constantly campaigning and shouting and being supported by their families. But the stigma is still there. Days like today are wonderful to have everyone together as a community.”
In its tenth year, the event attracted 2,300 people and a record breaking sum of £131,235 was raised for Red Run.
Denim, drag pop girlband who performed before the runners set off, told Eastlondonlines: “This is the most important day in our calendar, on a scale of 1-10 it’s a 12 or 15. It’s a great day for fundraising, raising awareness, particularly about U=U, remembrance of those we’ve lost, and celebration.”
Eastlondonlines spoke to some of those participated.
Ronan McEgan, 27, a programmer from Northern Ireland, told Eastlondonlines: “I’m running for Positive East, the stigma of HIV is still so prevalent, it stops people from talking about going to get diagnosed or seeking treatment, and can lead to mental health problems. Growing up, I had never even heard of it and although it has changed, it’s not as much as it should have.”
Sam Hunt, 29, and Louis Soaves, 28, who work for the hospitality company Rapport, told Eastlondonlines: “We’re a team of twenty from work, we’re out here because we want to get involved, do our bit, and help raise some money!”
Out of 103,000 people living with the condition in the UK, approximately 50,000 live in London. The UK has surpassed the UN’s 90-90-90 target and campaigners aim to make London the first global city to be at zero new diagnoses by 2030.
Sophie Count, from Frontline AIDS who had a stall at the event, told Eastlondonlines: “AIDS is not done, we are still in an ongoing crisis.”
The remembrance tent housed panels of the UK Memorial Quilt, a project started in 1991 portraying the stories of 384 individuals who have lost their lives.
Positive East is a Whitechapel charity, who have been supporting those with the condition for 28 years. Mark Santos, Director of Positive East, told Eastlondonlines: “The World AIDS Day Red Run has become so much more than just a charity 10K or 5K run or walk. It’s an important community event that brings together people and charities fighting against HIV stigma, tackling onward HIV transmission and providing much needed care and direct support.”