Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu honours Leicester HIV charity with new role as International Patron of LASS
Leicestershire AIDS Support Services (LASS) is extremely honoured to announce Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu in the new role of LASS’s International Patron. The Archbishop’s commitment comes as LASS prepares to launch the charity’s 25th Anniversary Year in June.
It is the first time in its history that LASS has sought the support of a patron and the acceptance of this position by Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu reflects the extensive variety of challenges that working in HIV presents. Jenny Hand, CEO of LASS, explains:
“For LASS to be supported and valued by a man of such international stature is incredible. The Archbishop’s untiring work in human rights, particularly in Southern Africa, and in the field of HIV/AIDS, together with his extraordinary ability to reach across communities, inspired LASS to approach him. His patronage reflects the diverse range of communities LASS works with and gives us a new sense of purpose and energy. We could not have asked for a better way to mark the launch of our 25th Anniversary Year and embolden our service users, staff and volunteers as we face the challenges that lie ahead.”
In approaching Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu LASS described the charity’s journey, from starting as a struggling telephone help-line in June 1987 for people affected by HIV and AIDS, to becoming Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland’s leading cross-community HIV charity today, currently supporting over 500 people affected by HIV; leading the way with its innovative community Rapid HIV Testing initiative; delivering education and training in sexual health in schools and community settings and challenging the stigma and ignorance that is still attached to HIV.
In accepting the invitation Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu explained that, as a retired octogenarian, he had been reducing his commitments. However, he was touched by LASS’s story and has decided to make an exception, agreeing to be the charity’s International Patron. Patrick Bowe, Chair of the LASS Board of Trustees comments:
“This is also a very positive reflection on our home of Leicester, which the Archbishop is already familiar with through the University of Leicester. The extraordinary diversity of the city’s communities, the work done in the city to maintain community harmony and LASS’s commitment to working across faiths and communities were also drawn to the Archbishop’s attention. It is for these reasons also that LASS believes no better figure could have been welcomed as our International Patron than Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu.”
LASS will be launching its 25th Anniversary Year with an Anniversary Boat Race in Humberstone Gate, Leicester City Centre, on 9 June. This event will reflect the fact that in 25 years the reality of HIV in the UK has changed enormously and it is possible, with early diagnosis, to live a long, healthy and active life with HIV. It will be the first in a number of initiatives throughout the coming year. The Anniversary Boat Race will also reflect the fact that HIV affects everyone, no matter which community or world continent they are from, and is something to address rather than shy away from.
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