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Time for Change: Action not Words!

For Black History Month 2022, Waverley Care’s Development Manager for Minority Ethnic Communities Ese Johnson examines racial inequalities in healthcare, and how looking to HIV activists ACT UP! may hold the key to overcoming them.


Police remove ACT UP demonstrators during a sit-in at the New York State Capitol in Albany, March 28, 1990. GQIn 1981, the emergence of a never-before-seen condition baffled healthcare professionals across the world. Initially thought of as a “gay cancer” - a result of misinformation and stigmatisation of queer communities – we now know it as HIV (human immunodeficiency virus). Early in the pandemic, when governments and healthcare authorities blamed the sick instead of providing solutions, a queer coalition called ACT UP! formed to demand better healthcare provisions for people living with HIV. In the four decades since ACT UP! formed, their activism, and activism of groups like them, has highlighted the impact that discrimination has on the level of healthcare certain communities receive.   

One such community are people from ethnic minority backgrounds. For a long time, ethnic minority communities have suffered because of inadequate treatment, a lack of ethnic monitoring, and discriminatory treatment from policy makers and healthcare staff. Indeed, the 2022 NHS Race and Health Observatory Report found “widespread” ethnic inequalities in the health service, with Black communities found to have particularly poor access, experiences, and outcomes, including in HIV treatment. 

Without-Us-1-760x450.jpgIt is time to echo the activism of ACT UP! and call the nation to action. This year’s Black History Month has the theme Time for Change: Action not Words! succinctly summarising what Black communities want – for real action to be taken to address the racial inequalities in healthcare. As a start, meaningful representation and participation of ethnic minority communities in healthcare is required – for example, implementing the recommendations of community-driven research like Nothing About Us Without Us: Addressing the Needs of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic Communities in Relation to HIV. But do not forget, “nothing about us without us” is not just a phrase – it is the only way that inequalities in healthcare will be overcome.  

I leave you with these words from ACT UP!: “Lack of meaningful Involvement = Continued Inequality; Healthcare Is a Right! Healthcare Is a Right! ACT UP!”


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