Beverley Knight has opened up about losing a gay friend to AIDS-related illness, as she becomes the new Patron of HIV charity Terrence Higgins Trust.
The beloved soul singer was announced today as the new Patron of the charity, which offers support, information and advice services for those living with HIV.
Explaining her decision, the singer opened up about her relationship with Tyrone Jamison, a gay man who died of an AIDS-related illness in 2003.
She said: “I lost a very good friend, Tyrone, in 2003 from an AIDS-related illness, and that loss still affects me very deeply now.
“Tyrone leaned on Terrence Higgins Trust quite heavily because of his own HIV status, and he’s the person that brought the charity and their great work to my attention.
“Today, HIV is not the death sentence it once was. Treatment works very effectively, meaning people who are HIV positive can live very long, very happy and very fulfilled lives – but as long as they know they have HIV and have treatment, and that’s the key.”
Beverley explained that her last album Soulsville features a track dedicated to Tyrone’s memory, titled ‘When I See You Again’.
She said: “I think the main challenge around HIV is stigma – stigma is terrible.
“It’s a real problem because until we get past the stigma we can’t get people to admit to themselves that they could or do have the virus, and therefore need to have a test and get effective treatment.
“Some people just don’t think it will ever happen to them, so that’s why HIV awareness needs to be at the forefront of people’s minds now more than ever.”
“I hope that there is enough passion and experience in what I say, so when I speak about HIV people will listen. I want to rouse people from their slumber and get them to face the reality of HIV head on instead of putting their heads in the sand.”
Ian Green, Chief Executive of Terrence Higgins Trust, said: “We are honoured to welcome Beverley Knight as a patron of Terrence Higgins Trust.
“Beverley has been a long standing supporter of the charity and has passionately campaigned to help stop HIV stigma and to ensure people with HIV live healthy and long lives.
“We are truly grateful for the unique contribution Beverley makes to people living with HIV, and we’re looking forward to continuing our work together as we aim to bring an end to HIV transmissions and to stigma.”
She joins the charity’s current Patrons, a group which includes Stephen Fry, Tracey Emin and Dame Judi Dench.