Misc: Freddie Mercury Phoenix Trust
"Hold onto the hope"
Before Freddie Mercury died, he asked us all to help the fight against AIDS. The Mercury Phoenix Trust was founded in response to his request.
The Trust's aim is to raise AIDS awareness and much needed funds to help charities all over the world to support those affected by this dreadful disease. Since 1992 over £4 million has been donated to over 100 different charities in countries in Europe, Africa, Asia and America. In the UK, meanwhile, volunteers all over the country co-ordinate the National Street Collection for AIDS charities under the umbrella of the Mercury Phoenix Trust. A whole range of charities, all working in different fields against HIV and AIDS - whether it be in caring for those affected, education programmes to inform others about the issues surrounding the disease, or scientific projects working to find some form of treatment or vaccine - are supported by the Trust. Often these are small, grass-root organisations which have to fight for every penny to keep their services going: the money raised by the Mercury Phoenix Trust is often vital to their existence. Just as important are the links being forged between MPT co-ordinators and their local charities, and the fact that all the money raised in one area actually supports those affected by AIDS in that area.
Is AIDS really still a problem?
In a word, yes. There are too many statistics to prove it: since 1982 in the UK alone, there have been an estimated 40,000 HIV infections, and of these, 13,000 have died. The numbers of people diagnosed with HIV is increasing by about 2,500 per year in the UK. Worldwide, 16,000 people are infected with HIV every day.
Aside from the figures, there is the human picture. While it is true that there have been a number of drugs developed in recent years, which relieve many of the symptoms of HIV infection, there is still no cure, vaccine or truly effective treatment. There are, in addition, numerous unpleasant side-effects of the drugs which do exist, plus the constant reminder of HIV status for anyone taking the drugs - which, in a world where there is still a tangible stigma attached to the disease, only serves to further the emotional impact of the disease. Plus the cost of these drugs is high - what is raised by one co-ordinator for the MPT in a year would, on average, pay for one person to take these drugs for one year. The problem is still here.
What we can do?
Education and prevention is still the key to effectively fighting HIV and AIDS. But this is an uphill battle, against prejudice, discrimination, lack of understanding, and the still widespread "its not my problem" attitude. Gay, straight, black, white, young, old, male, female: AIDS doesn't see any of the barriers that we do - it cuts across them all. AIDS does not care - but we can.
Add to this that there is a distinct lack of money to help those both infected and affected by AIDS. The Mercury Phoenix Trust aims to help the fight against AIDS by acting as an umbrella under which the whole range of charities, from local telephone helplines to national organisations, can effectively raise money and awareness. Co-ordinators across the country work with charities in their area to raise money through events from street collections to concerts, and the money goes back to those charities to help their work continue. Often this facilitates local services essential to the support and well-being of people affected by AIDS to continue.
How the Mercury Phoenix Trust works
The MPT employs no members of staff in this country to oversee or carry out any fund-raising. All of the UK co-ordinators work on an entirely voluntary basis, as does the National Co-ordinator, Maureen Barclay, who overlooks the Collection as a whole and supports the network of co-ordinators. This makes our work even more difficult, as everyone works with different resources and with the other pressures of work and family commitments - but at the core of the MPT is a core of committed people who aim to raise money and awareness to help the fight against AIDS.
The Mercury Phoenix Trust will continue itswork to unite the fight against AIDS and help those suffering with this dreadful disease. If you would like to help, you can give wherever you see a collecting tin, come along to one of our fund-raising events (with the added benefit of being assured a great time!), or send us a donation. Our contact details are below.