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Stephen Fry celebrates 30 years HIV research, care and treatment at Chelsea and Westminster

21 September 2018

Stephen Fry joined staff from the Kobler Clinic at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital on Friday 14 September to celebrate the clinic’s 30th birthday and the incredible achievements which have been made during this time to support HIV patients.

Stephen Fry joined staff from the Kobler Clinic at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital on Friday 14 September to celebrate the clinic’s 30th birthday and the incredible achievements which have been made during this time to support HIV patients. 

Princess Diana opened the Kobler Clinic, as part of the former St Stephen’s Hospital, on 13 September 1988 and it was the first HIV clinic in the UK. It is now the largest and busiest HIV clinic in Western Europe. It is part of Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, which has seven different HIV and sexual health clinics across London and is recognised as a global centre of excellence in this area of healthcare. 

Stephen Fry spoke to staff, saying: “It is an honour to be here today to celebrate this important birthday. When this unit opened 30 years ago, HIV was still very much unknown and regarded with negativity and hatred by so many in the public sphere. However, the remarkable warmth and care coupled with the rapid advances in treatments pioneered in the Kobler Clinic was extraordinary. Not since Florence Nightingale and her lamp, has there been such a genuinely remarkable human flame of love in the medical field. This dedication, care and compassion has continued through to today and deserves to be celebrated.”

The combined HIV and sexual health services at the Trust see up to 250,000 patients a year—the largest sexual health service in London. The Trust’s award-winning Dean Street clinic in Soho sees more than 12,000 sexual health attendances per month, and accounts for 1 in 9 of every new HIV diagnosis in the UK. Patients at Dean Street are seen within 15 minutes and get results in 4–6 hours on the phone and are often treated on same day for infection. The Trust has seen 80% reduction in HIV diagnosis since 2015. Dean Street has adopted the ‘Getting to Zero’ campaign, which aims for zero new infections, zero deaths due to HIV/AIDS, and zero stigma for people living with HIV. Part of this campaign is the Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) service offered, which studies have shown can be over 86% effective at preventing HIV infection.  

The model of care established at Dean Street is now internationally recognised and has been visited by colleagues in other countries including Australia, Europe and the United States, with the aim of replicating the model. 

The anniversary was also marked at the hospital with another special event which convened leading clinicians, scientists, stakeholders and the third sector, examining the future of HIV and sexual health in the UK and the Trust’s leading role in this.

Lesley Watts, Chief Executive of Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust commented: “The teams at the Kobler Clinic and all our staff have shown true dedication and commitment over the years, and I want to take this opportunity to say a huge thank you. It’s incredibly important for us to mark this milestone in our history as we have truly been at the forefront of the global fight against HIV/AIDS for the last thirty years.  We have been pioneers in the research and innovation in this area, and we continue to lead new advancements in sexual health medication.”

The St Stephen’s Fund has been created by the Trust’s charity CW+ following the dissolution of St Stephen’s AIDS Trust. The fund will continue to support ground-breaking research and innovation in HIV and sexual health.