Ian Green, Chief Executive at Terrence Higgins Trust
Ian was diagnosed with HIV in 1996, the same year that effective treatments were first found. He accessed Terrence Higgins Trust’s life-changing services for support with his diagnosis before taking on the role of Chief Executive almost seven years ago. Ian lives with his husband Paul (who Ian can’t pass HIV onto because of the daily treatment he takes to reduce the HIV in his body to undetectable levels) and their two dogs.
We spoke to Ian about his work at Terrence Higgins Trust to support and empower those living with HIV and the ongoing fight against HIV stigma, as well as his own experience living openly with HIV...
Terry Higgins was the first named person to die of an AIDS-related illness in the UK on 4 July, 1982. This year we’ve been remembering Terry and all of the incredible work that’s been done in his name to mark 40 years since his death. Our charity was set up by Terry’s partner, Rupert Whitaker, and their friend, Martyn Butler, to provide information and support – and ultimately to save lives.
We’ve made incredible progress in the fight against HIV in the last four decades with effective treatment meaning you can live as long as anyone else and can’t pass on HIV to your partners. But stigma remains a big issue and that’s something we’re determined to tackle as we won’t end new HIV cases by 2030 without also tackling the stubborn myths and out-of-date information surrounding this virus. For example, it was just a few years ago we found that almost half of people would feel uncomfortable just kissing someone living with HIV. So it’s definitely not ‘job done’ when it comes to HIV and we have a long way to go before all people living with HIV can live well with the virus.
I’m proud – and privileged – to be able to live openly with HIV and share my story to shape hearts and minds. We know that empowering people living with HIV to share their story in the media or online has a huge impact in tackling stigma and smashing perceptions of what HIV looks like. Having role models and visibility is so important if you feel safe and able to do that.
As HIV treatment has improved – changing a HIV diagnosis from a terminal one to a manageable long term condition – so too has our work. We provide holistic support to be there for people living with HIV at any point on their journey, whether newly diagnosed or living with HIV for decades. That includes counselling, peer support via out online community forum, benefits and welfare support, our hardship fund, and THT Direct where you can ask any questions about HIV and sexual health. As well as our sexual health services across England, Scotland and Wales.
My first ever meeting when I joined Terrence Higgins Trust in 2016 was about PrEP and getting it on the NHS without a cap on numbers. It took a lot to get there, but that finally happened in England in October 2020 – making it the last in the UK to routinely provide PrEP. I’m extremely proud of the work we did to make that happen both publicly and behind the scenes, including working with those already benefitting from PrEP to protect against HIV. Having said that, access issues remain and monkeypox is squeezing clinic capacity in many areas – so the work continues to ensure proper, equitable access for all communities impacted by HIV.
What is the change you'd like to see in our community?
I’m a proud gay man and the LGBTQ community has been absolutely crucial in the fight against HIV. But HIV stigma remains in our own communities, as well as in wider society, and that’s something we need to tackle. I’m living with HIV, but I’m not “unclean”. I’m also a strong, unfailing trans ally and firmly believe tackling all forms of discrimination – including transphobia and racism – is crucial to achieve our goals of ending new HIV cases by the end of the decade. As well as being the right thing to do to ensure trans people and people of colour can thrive.
For more information on the services that Terrence Higgins Trust has to offer, check out their website.
Thanks to National Lottery players