UK queen of soul Beverley Knight has been a vocal supporter of HIV activism for more years than she may care to remember
The singer and actress, who won Attitude's Ally of the Year Award
- in no small part due to her support of the Terrence Higgins Trust - revealed how her passion for HIV activism was kicked into overdrive after the passing of a close friend in the '90s, and why she believes stigma is the next big battle in the war on the virus.
Beverley met Tyrone Jamison at a nightclub in 2001. He had initially asked her to sing at a Pride event, and the pair hit it off, eventually moving it together. Already a supporter of HIV activism, his death "really upped things," for the singer, who says she began "speaking up as much as I can".
Unfortunately, Tyrone passed away from and AIDS-related illness in 2003, with Beverley helping to care for him in his last days. Ever since, she has continued to support and raise awareness on behalf of HIV charities.
"I want to bring awareness of what HIV is, what it can do," she continued. "I want to shake people, who think it's no different from chlamydia, from their apathy," she explained. "Because it's really not the same as chlamydia."
And with medical advances meaning that HIV+ people who know their status can lead long and healthy lives, the next challenge for her is fighting fear and stigma, which she described as "a bigger battle than the medical side."
"I think stigma is why HIV rates have spiked. A good friend of my brother died before he was 30 because he was so terrified of being tested," she revealed.
"And it doesn't have to be that way. If you go for your test and find out your positive, you can still lead a relatively normal, long life."
Knight, whose track 'When I See You Again' from her latest album Soulsville
was inspired by Tyrone, also revealed how it felt to dedicate a song to her late friend.
"You have to be in the right frame of mind to talk about [losing someone], because it's not easy at all. But it's a joyous song, and it's only suddenly that you the person I'm singing to is no longer with us," she said.
"I couldn't have written that song in the early days. I couldn't have seen the hopeful side of it".
Our full interview with Beverley Knight can be found our July issue, which is still available to download from pocketmags.com/attitude.
To order a free self-sampling HIV kit go to www.test.hiv, and to find your nearest sexual health clinic visit nhs.uk.
For more information about World AIDS Day visit worldaidsday.org.
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