A Surbiton man who defied a late HIV diagnosis and became a disability campaigner was nominated for a national award.

As the Surrey Comet previously reported earlier this year, Roland Chesters was given two weeks to live at the time of his HIV diagnosis, and suffered long term effects including brain damage because the virus was picked up and treated at such a late stage.

Nevertheless, he went on to defy the odds and continues to thrive as a campaigner for disabled rights.

His work in challenging the stigma surrounding HIV-AIDS has now been recognized by the The National Diversity Awards, after Mr Chesters was nominated for the prestigious award ahead of the presentation ceremony on Friday, September 20.

Mr Chesters spoke of his elation at receiving the nomination and hopes that it will further boost his efforts to combat misconceptions about the disease.

“I am delighted to be nominated for such a prestigious award and hope it will raise awareness of the hidden disability that is HIV and AIDs,” he said.

One key area of focus in the Surbiton man’s efforts has been encouraging people to get tested for HIV-AIDS.

The government’s annual report on the disease has found nearly half of those diagnosed in the UK are at the late stage of infection.

Mr Chesters now works as a consultant at disability support network Luminate, and previously chaired the disabled staff network at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

He was nominated for the award by an HIV-positive man who was sexually assaulted and cannot be named for legal reasons.

Remaining anonymous, the man praised Mr Chesters for helping him conquer his own anxiety about the disease.

“Roland took me under his wing and helped me to conquer my fears as I use to lock myself indoors.

“Roland helps me say ‘I have HIV’,” he said.

Meanwhile, Mr Chesters continues to work and campaign for disability rights and an end to stigma surrounding HIV-AIDS.

“I will not live in fear. I want to stand up for other people who may be more vulnerable or with less of a support network.

“Until there are enough people living with the condition saying ‘this is who I am and I cannot pass on the infection’ the stigma will not go away,” he said.

The National Diversity Awards are taking place at Liverpool’s Anglican Cathedral (6.15pm) on Friday, September 20 with hosts Sally Phillips and Alex Brooker.

Source – www.surreycomet.co.uk

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