Catherine McGuinness: A sobering time of year to consider your health

Catherine McGuinness

Flicking through my diary to check for meetings, I dared myself to count the weeks until Christmas and was mildly alarmed by how it has crept up suddenly on many of us. With everything else going on, I can’t quite believe that it is just six weeks away.

Whatever your faith or lack of it, Christmas is a time for celebration and an opportunity to gather family and friends around and enjoy their company with good food and drink, and it is perhaps no coincidence that Alcohol Change is encouraging us to be aware of overdoing it.

Not just at Christmas, of course… but it’s certainly a timely reminder – and the charity is holding Alcohol Awareness Week this week (November 15-21) to put its case.

It stresses that it isn’t anti-alcohol; instead, it is working towards a future where, in its own words, “people drink as a conscious choice, not a default; where the issues which lead to alcohol problems – like poverty, mental health issues, homelessness – are addressed.”

For our part in the City of London, staff from the City and Hackney Integrated Recovery Service will be holding a range of activities for residents and workers who may be worried about their, or others’, drinking. You can find out more from the Turning Point website.

NOW READ: Alcohol Awareness Week urging City to know its limits

Staying with our health and if you are a keen theatregoer, you will know that Larry Kramer’s hard-hitting AIDS drama, The Normal Heart, ended a very successful run recently at the National Theatre.

Encouraging reviews and standing ovations were a testament to the actors’ superb performances and how the audiences reacted to how the issues, including love, prejudice, ignorance, and death were portrayed.

World AIDS Day on Wednesday 1 December will be an opportunity for us to show support for people living with HIV around the world, and to commemorate those who have died from an AIDS-related illness.

The number of new HIV diagnoses has been declining since 2014, but the virus has not gone away. In 2019 in London, there were 1,500 new HIV diagnoses.

At the City of London Corporation, our Public Health team is reminding City workers and residents to look after their sexual health and know their HIV status – take a look at for further information.

Those in the Square Mile living with, or affected by, HIV are able to access support through Positive East or Body & Soul.

And it is worth knowing that testing for HIV (and other STIs) is free, and that the sooner you know if you might have HIV or other STIs, the sooner you will be able to get treatment. You can get tested online via, through your GP, or at a local sexual health clinic.

A fairly sober column this time around but, at the risk of sounding defensive, I make no apology for raising awareness of these important issues. We need to take care of ourselves, and each other.

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