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Revolving Door


A new Mayor – How London chose hope over fear, unity over division

Friday, 27 May 2016 Written by // Christian Dolan Categories // As Prevention , Current Affairs, General Health, Features and Interviews, Health, International , Treatment, Opinion Pieces, Revolving Door, Guest Authors

London has elected its first Muslim Mayor, "candidate for unity", Sadiq Khan. Christian Dolan interviews David Robson, Chair of the Wandsworth LGBT Forum and political campaigner for insight into what it may mean for HIV prevention in London

A new Mayor – How London chose hope over fear, unity over division

So the first Thursday of this month was the Mayor of London and Greater London Assembly elections which saw Sadiq Khan, Labour MP, beat his Conservative rival Zac Goldsmith to become the new Mayor of London, meaning the Labour party has taken back London’s City Hall after eight years in Conservative control. London has again done a first and elected its first Muslim Mayor in what the local UK press has described as “London choosing hope over fear and unity over division.”

Okay, so let’s get to the point of what I am trying to say – Khan’s election, regardless as to whether or not you are happy he was elected over the other candidates, has again set a massive benchmark. One that evidently has produced another example of the minority winning, another victory for those who are labelled as being outnumbered to come out on top as the winner. My point – small voices can become big leaders. Something which I think is always worth bearing in mind, no matter what your background, belief, etc. Don’t let the scaremongers quieten the roaring lion within you.

A week before the election took place, British gay life-style magazine Attitude interviewed Sadiq Khan where he stated that he knows what it is like to be different – whether it’s your ethnicity, your religion or your sexual orientation. He was also asked if he considered himself as a candidate of unity to which he utterly agreed. In the same interview, Attitude touched on the subject of HIV, stating how it still remains a huge problem for the gay community in London, mentioning the recent decision made by the NHS to not roll out PrEP treatment across England (something, as I mentioned in my previous article, is now being reconsidered).

Unfortunately, as Mayor, Sadiq Khan doesn’t have the power to enforce PrEP becoming available on the NHS; however he can definitely use his position to influence and hopefully play a part in helping the upcoming review of this being changed. Khan rightfully stated that we need better public education, to make sure people are aware of their status and educated with regards to testing, transmission, risks etc. He also mentioned the economic benefit to PrEP – being that prevention via PrEP over the cost of ART’s saves the taxpayer a lot of money.

Although little has been said by Khan with regards to HIV, what he has said is definitely important. I got the chance to interview a friend of mine, David Robson who is chair of the Wandsworth LGBT Forum, a Political Campaigner and resident DJ at XXL, who gave me his insight into what he feels about Sadiq Khan’s win, HIV prevention in London and what he would like to see Khan do with regards to HIV awareness during his stand as Mayor of London:

Christian: Hi David, thank you for agreeing to do this interview with me. So, I was just wondering if you could first of all give me your feelings regarding Sadiq Khan’s electoral win. What made him the better choice for London over his rival Zac Goldsmith?

David: Well of course being a South Londoner I am thrilled we have a local lad in City Hall. The Mayorals are very different in comparison to a general or council election. You’re voting for a personality as well as their politics. What party they represent doesn’t seem to matter to the majority of Londoners and I think Sadiq spoke to the ordinary Londoner. In my personal opinion I think Sadiq was out there every hour of every day in every community. I don’t think Zac ‘wanted’ it enough.

What would you like to see from Sadiq’s time in office as Mayor of London?

Follow up on his pledge to be a Mayor for all Londoner’s. Continue to engage with the communities he met with during the election and show that his Mayorality will be one of inclusion and not exclusion. I don’t think we can no longer ignore the issue of housing and the cost of living in London. I was lucky enough to move here in the early 00’s and establish myself. I don’t see how that can happen to young people in other parts of the country these days who are outpriced of rented accommodation.

Khan mentioned the importance of better public education regarding HIV prevention – what is your stance on this and what do you feel could be done, especially within London to raise more awareness within regards to HIV education and prevention?

I’m not really sure what he can do as Mayor of London with regards to policy change as the role is mainly one of influence. So I hope he uses this to create visibility of the issue. London has the highest rate of newly diagnosed HIV patients in Europe. To ignore it would be shameful. Events like World AIDS Day, or similar, would be a great opportunity to bring together the groups (from all 32 London boroughs) who campaign tirelessly on HIV awareness. Ideally what I would want to see become policy is same sex education/relationships in schools. To think we live in a country where marriage between both sexes is legal, yet we have inequality embedded in the classroom. Shameful.

What are your feelings surrounding PrEP? Do you agree that the NHS should make it available?

I think this is a decision not to be taken lightly. The NHS is under enormous pressure from all sides of the health sector and it seems privatisation is waiting patiently in the wings to pounce on any NHS failings.  The cost of making this widely available isn’t cheap. However, it works. Does it come down to being cheaper for treating those at high risk of contracting HIV or treating, for life, a HIV patient? I applaud the campaigners and all who are bringing this issue to the forefront but my personal opinion, as yet, is yes it should be made available for those at most risk. At least there is a level of honesty there and people shouldn’t be shamed for their sexual activity