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Welsh Government announce 26 actions to eliminate HIV and tackle stigma in Wales

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An ambitious plan setting out 26 actions to eliminate new HIV infections, improve quality of life and end stigma by 2030 has been published today (Tuesday 14 June) by the Welsh Government.

The draft 2023-26 plan, a Programme for Government commitment, sets out our future approach to prevention, testing, clinical care, living well with HIV and tackling HIV-related stigma.

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The Health Minister will also announce £3.9m to further develop online HIV testing following the increasing success of the scheme during the pandemic. More people were tested for HIV between January and March 2022 than in any previous quarter.

The plan has been created by our HIV action plan working group which included community-based stakeholders, the voluntary and community sector, healthcare professionals, academics and people with HIV.

A 12-week consultation period has now opened for people and organisations to comment on the plan.

Between 2015 and 2021, Wales saw a 75 per cent reduction in new diagnoses of HIV. A significant factor in this was our commitment to provide Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) for anyone who is clinically in need since the summer of 2017.

In 2021 there were 48 people newly diagnosed with HIV infection in Wales and approximately 2,800 people accessed care in Wales for HIV.

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Health Minister Eluned Morgan said: “We have come a long way since the dark days of the 1980s – which were so memorably depicted last year in Channel 4’s It’s a Sin – when ignorance and cruelty towards people with HIV was rife.

“There is no place for ignorance or intolerance in modern Wales and this plan sets out actions to tackle this.

“Working with partners, we have made huge progress in improving access to testing and treatment in Wales and we’re proud of the significant reduction in new diagnoses of HIV.

“There is more to be done and by implementing these actions, we can make a massive difference to the lives of people living with HIV and in protecting current and future generations from the virus. I encourage anyone living with or with experience of working with people with HIV to take part in our consultation.”

Actions include increasing access to condoms and PrEP, breaking down barriers to testing, developing a national peer support programme for Wales and creating an HIV awareness programme including introducing it into the school curriculum.

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Following the success of Fast Track Cardiff & Vale, a collaboration of public bodies which created Wales HIV Testing Week and piloted new services, the plan also recommends the introduction of an all-Wales coalition, Fast Track Cymru.

The aspiration is to make Wales a Fast Track Nation, supporting regional networks of health, social care and community groups to help reach the 2030 goals of no new HIV diagnoses and zero stigma.

Gian Molinu, Chair of Fast Track Cardiff & Vale, said: “We’re pleased that the Welsh Government has recognised that collaboration and inclusion is the way forward and made a commitment to encouraging new ways of working. It’s vital that people with HIV and the communities most affected have a say in these plans so we urge people to take part in the consultation.”

(Lead image: ITV)

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New stamps celebrate 50 years of pride

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Royal Mail today revealed images of a new set of eight, vibrantly illustrated stamps, being issued to mark the 50th anniversary of the UK’s first Pride rally that took place on 1 July 1972.

Issued exactly 50 years to the day, the stamps celebrate the march that took place from Trafalgar Square to Hyde Park, which was the first to bear the name ‘Gay Pride Rally’. The march was inspired by events in the USA, where the first Pride events had taken place to commemorate the anniversary of the Stonewall riots in New York.

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The stamps, specially commissioned by Royal Mail, were art directed by NB Studio and illustrated by award-winning artist Sofie Birkin. Her illustrations have featured in campaigns for brands such as Nike and Apple.

Royal Mail worked with journalist and published author Amelia Abraham on the stamp issue and also consulted with Royal Mail’s internal LGBT & Friends Network.

Beginning in 1972, the stamps tell a story of Pride over time. They depict the first ‘Gay Pride rally’ and early Pride events where participants shouted slogans such as, “Gay is fun! Gay is proud! Gay is beautiful!”, to the more recent update on the traditional rainbow flag, its design encompassing the flags of trans and intersex people, while also referencing the inclusion of LGBTQ+ people of colour.

David Gold, Director External Affairs & Policy, Royal Mail said: “The vibrant, colourful Pride events that take place in towns and cities across the UK today trace their origins to a small number of people who marched through central London half a century ago to raise awareness of discrimination and inequality. There have been huge changes in laws and social attitudes, but Pride events continue to play a key role in raising awareness of discrimination, as well as celebrating diversity and individualism.”

Pride animation

The designers of the stamps, NB Studio, have, in collaboration with animation studio, Animade, created a film using the illustrations featured in the stamp issue.

The film builds on the diverse and beautiful characters featured on the stamps and draws them together using rich storytelling throughout – which uses complex hand-drawn, frame by frame animation.

NB Studio selected Animade to bring Sofie Birkin’s illustrations to life – assisted by NB Studio’s writer Dan Radley, sound engineers Box of Toys Audio and voice actor Layton Williams.

Alan Dye, Creative Director at and owner of NB Studio, said “It was a real honour to be asked to design this iconic series for The Royal Mail, as they represent such an important part of British LGBTQ+ history. It was an absolute joy to work with Sofie Birkin who’s work we’ve admired for some time. Watching these beautiful illustrations come to life you could easily imagine yourself as part of the ‘March Through Time…’.

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Jennifer Judd, co-founder and Managing Director at Animade, said: “This was a joyous project for Animade to be part of and gave us an opportunity as part of our creative industry to do something beautiful to celebrate Pride and the diverse LGBTQ+ community. Animation adds an extra narrative dimension, which helped to bring this important project for Royal Mail to life.”

Pride in the UK from 1972 to the present

On 1 July 1972, a crowd of people gathered in London’s Trafalgar Square before marching to Hyde Park. This was not the first march for LGBTQ+ rights in the UK; similar protests had taken place in Highbury Fields, Islington, in 1970, and another in Trafalgar Square in 1971. But it was the first with the name ‘Gay Pride Rally’. The inspiration came from the USA, where the first Pride events had taken place to commemorate the anniversary of the Stonewall riots, the 1969 clash between the LGBTQ+ community and police in New York City. The spirit of Pride was one of defiant visibility. At London’s first event there was even a ‘kiss-in’ – a mass display of same-sex affection, while people at early Pride events chanted slogans such as, “Gay is fun! Gay is proud! Gay is beautiful!”

One of their demands was greater legal equality for gay people. Homosexuality was partially decriminalised in England and Wales in 1967, yet police arrests of gay and bisexual men remained common in the years following. Over the course of the first decade of Pride events, calls for basic safety and freedom were a priority; during Gay Pride Week in 1978, pamphlets were distributed to raise awareness of violent assaults on the LGBTQ+ community, such as the National Front’s then recent attack on the popular South London LGBTQ+ venue the Royal Vauxhall Tavern.

During the 1980s, an increased climate of homophobia in the wake of the AIDS epidemic meant that attacks on LGBTQ+ people in the UK continued. The health crisis also sparked new Pride events, such as Manchester Pride, which began as an AIDS fundraiser.

Throughout the 1990s, Pride spread across the UK. Pride Scotia launched in Scotland, with annual marches alternating between Edinburgh and Glasgow, and the first Cardiff Pride followed in 1999.  In the 2000s, attendance at Pride in London grew alongside increasing support for LGBTQ+ rights, and more events were launched under the Pride banner. In 2002, same-sex couples won the right to adopt; two years later, same-sex civil partnerships were legalised.

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In 2013, an even more historic shift took place when the law was changed to allow same-sex marriage. The following year, Pride began to attract large corporate sponsorships, signalling its increased mainstream acceptance. By 2015, Pride in London, as it was now known, attracted a million people, and it continued to grow in the years following, until Pride celebrations had to be cancelled in 2020 and 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic. Today, Pride in London remains the main event in the UK, though many others are flourishing across the country.

The stamps are available to pre-order from today (23 June) www.royalmail.com/prideby phone on 03457 641 641 and at 7,000 Post Offices across the UK. They go on general sale on 1 July. A Presentation Pack, containing all eight stamps, is priced at £12.96

Freddie Mercury’s childhood stamp album to be displayed at London’s Postal Museum:

The Postal Museum in London is to display one of Freddie Mercury’s childhood possessions – his stamp album – for the first time.

The album will be on display in the museum from 13 July until 30 October this year and is part of the celebrations to mark the 50th anniversary of the UK Pride movement. 

The 54-page album consists predominately of stamps from the British Commonwealth and reveals not only Freddie’s early life in Zanzibar, but also his artistic talent. 

For more information on the exhibition, visit www.postalmuseum.org/visit-us/

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Swansea Pride returns on Saturday 30 April

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This bank holiday weekend (30 April) sees the return of Swansea Pride which is back after a gap of 2 years due to the pandemic.

The organisers have promised a weekend of celebration, including a city centre parade and events at the National Waterfront Museum and Museum Green.

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The weekend kicks off on Friday 29 April with the official pre-Pride party hosted by “queer dance party for every body” PYNK at the Elysium gallery, bar and nightclub on High Street.

Talking about the event, a spokesperson from PYNK said: “We have 3 amazing DJs lined up and a night full of dancing, cocktails and celebrating how fabulous we all are.” Doors open from 8pm with tickets available online.

Saturday (30 April) is jam packed full of activities, with a parade working its way through the city centre.

The last Swansea Pride was held two years ago before the pandemic (Image: Swansea Council)

A spokesperson from Swansea Pride said: “As the big pride event hits the city centre this Saturday, we want to encourage the whole of Swansea to join us in celebrating inclusivity and the LGBTQ+ community.

The pride parade starts at the top of Wind Street at 11am. It will snake up Castle Street, the Kingsway, Oxford Street and will finish on the Museum Green at the National Waterfront Museum. This is where people can enjoy music, drag shows, food, entertainment, and feel-good-fun for the whole family.

“We can’t wait to welcome the whole region to this event of celebration.”

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The official Pride afterparty takes place at Fiction & Vinyl nightclub on Little Wind Street promising late night dance action from 6pm until 4am.

Cardiff based gay bar Mary’s is also coming to the city with a special pop-up event at Popworld on Wind Street from 6pm till late.

Drag Queen Story Hour are returning to Swansea for Mini Pride (Image: Drag Queen Story Hour)

Sunday (May 1) sees the launch of Mini Pride at the National Waterfront Museum. The family friendly event features Drag Queen Story Hour who promise to share some wonderful stories in a thrilling storytime show.

As well as crafts, face painting and a mini-parade, the Mini Pride also features a showing of children’s film Trolls World Tour.

For more information about Swansea Pride, visit www.swanseapride.co.uk.

(Lead image: Swansea Council)

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Conversion therapy ban moves forward in Wales

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women with gay pride body paint

Deputy Minister for Social Partnership Hannah Blythyn has outlined the next steps the Welsh Government is taking towards banning conversion practises across Wales.

Ms Blythyn also announced that NHS Wales has signed up to a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to ban conversion therapy in Wales, working towards achieving the Welsh Government’s ambition to become “the friendliest LGBTQ+ Nation in Europe”.

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Deputy Minister for Social Partnership, Hannah Blythyn said: “As a government, we’ve committed to ensuring that we become the friendliest LGBTQ+ nation in Europe, where no one is left out or left behind.

“Today I am announcing several further steps Welsh Government is taking towards making conversion therapy a thing of the past.

“In addition to seeking legal advice to determine all the levers we have in Wales to end the practice of conversion therapy unilaterally; we will educate and raise awareness of the horrors and ineffectiveness of conversion therapy practices by establishing a dedicated campaign in Wales.

“Alongside this, work will be undertaken to better understand the impact of conversion ‘therapy’ on survivors to enable support services to be improved and we will establish a working group of experts, to include representatives from faith communities; the health and social care sector; and children and young people’s representatives, alongside LGBTQ+ people to help with this work and advise on key elements as a ban is developed.”

The Minister also announced that the Welsh Government and NHS Wales have signed up to a ‘Memorandum of Understanding’ (MoU) with the Coalition Against Conversion Therapy. Organisations who sign the Memorandum and work in the provision of mental or psychological health delivery or commissioning, such as the NHS, will commit to ensure they do not commission or provide conversion therapy in Wales.

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Dr Frank Atherton, Chief Medical Officer for Wales and Judith Paget, Chief Executive of NHS Wales said: “The Welsh Government and NHS Wales fully support the banning of LGBTQ+ conversion therapy, witnessed through our signing of the MoU with the Coalition Against Conversion Therapy.

We stand united in our desire to make this abhorrent practice illegal and believe this will offer an important opportunity to support those at risk of conversion therapy as well as victims and survivors.”

Finally the Deputy Minister said: “Through the measures I have announced and by engaging with partners across crucial sectors, I am confident that together we can and must rise to the challenge to make Wales the most LGBTQ+ friendly nation in Europe, where every corner of our country is a safe place for LGBTQ+ people to live openly and authentically as themselves.”

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