A DEPUTY Mayor shaved his hair to show solidarity with people living with HIV and to raise money for charity.

Cllr Richard Jones (Labor, Old Warley) shaved his hair and beard on Wednesday night (December 1) outside Sandwell Council House, as part of the ‘Brave the Shave’ campaign.

He raised over £ 270, with the funds being shared equally between the Sandwell Mayor’s Charity St John Ambulance and the Terrence Higgins Trust.

Cllr Jones said: “I was a little nervous about having my hair cut. I remember in a councilor poll that I was voted as having the best hair.

Cllr Richard Jones after shaving his head

“It’s for a little fun, but it’s also a serious subject. I want to remind everyone how easy it is to get tested for AIDS and to “know your status”.

“It is important for my community to eliminate the shame and stigma associated with HIV and AIDS.

“The pandemic has highlighted, just as during the AIDS crisis, how diseases exploit similar societal weaknesses, such as divisions across race, class and power.

“I hope that with the technologies used to create these amazing coronavirus vaccines, the same technologies will ensure that HIV is eradicated from our society.”

Sandwell’s council also lit the council house after 4 p.m. to show its commitment as a local authority and employer to supporting people living with HIV.

It comes after an HIV action plan, backed by more than £ 23million in government funding, aims to reduce new infections by 80% by 2025 and end infections and deaths in ‘by 2030.

A total of £ 3.5million is being invested in a national HIV prevention program 2021-2024 as part of the plan, launched to mark World AIDS Day.

Steps will also be taken to increase access to pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) drugs to reduce the risk of contracting the virus.

Funding of £ 20million is to be spent over the next three years to roll out NHS emergency room withdrawal testing in local authority areas with five or more HIV cases per 1,000 population.

This will make it easier to reach black African groups as well as heterosexual, gay and bisexual men, who may not regularly use sexual health services and miss opportunities to get tested for HIV.

The plan also aims to ensure that people receive treatment early to prevent spreading the infection, and help should be offered to people living with HIV to keep them on treatment.

A new memorial in Birmingham city center was also unveiled in honor of those who died during the AIDS epidemic.

The sculpture will be completed by June 2022 and will stand six meters tall on the new Racecourse plaza currently under construction in Southside.

The Birmingham AIDS & HIV Memorial group (BAHM) hopes the monument will serve as a “long-lasting” memorial to those who lost their lives in the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s.

World AIDS Day is an annual opportunity for people around the world to unite in the fight against HIV and AIDS by raising awareness, addressing stigma and improving education.