Archbishop arrives by Underground to blesses Mildmay HIV hospital
PUBLISHED: 14:17 04 November 2014 | UPDATED: 14:17 04 November 2014
The rebuilt Mildmay HIV-specialist hospital made famous by Princess Diana got a holy sprinkling of water when the Archbishop of Canterbury came to bless the new complex yesterday in London’s East End.
The Most Rev Justin Welby arrived in Shoreditch on foot, travelling by Tube and Overground and walking half-a-mile from the station—to keep the hospital’s fundraising costs down.
He was greeted by a line-up of the good and the great, including patrons and the great-great grandson of the Mildmay’s Victorian founder, as well as hospital cleaner George Flaucker who has been pushing the broom for 25 years.
The complex officially opens in the New Year—rumour has it that it will be a royal occasion. It has been delayed since March by construction teething troubles.
Meanwhile, Britain’s leading care centre for HIV treatment struggles on a £3 million budget to keep its unique services running. It only gets £2.2m from the NHS, the rest from voluntary fundraising.
The Archbishop toured the wards and therapy rooms after casting his blessing on the fundraising suite—joking that if they don’t get cash in to call him “for a refund”.
The Mildmay has specialised in HIV treatment since the 1980s and has an 80 per cent recovery rate where patients return to independent living. Princess Diana visited the Mildmay many times and broke the Aids taboo when she shook hands with patients.
“People were scared of Aids in the 1980s,” the hospital’s fundraising manager manager Kerry Reeves explained. “Local barbers wouldn’t cut hair of anyone here. Even a bank wouldn’t take money, while delivery people sometimes came in protective clothing.
“The fear in the 1980s lasted several years, until Princess Di broke the taboo. She did a lot for us.”
The new complex replaces the old Victorian building behind Shoreditch Church that opened in 1896. But the Mildmay has had a presence in the East End since the cholera epidemic that swept Bethnal Green in 1866. Missionaries from the Mildmay parish in Highbury arrived to minister to the sick—and stayed for the next 150 years.
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