Archbishop Tutu becomes patron
Archbishop Desmond Tutu has agreed to be international patron of a Leicestershire charity.
Staff at Lass – Leicestershire Aids Support Services – said they are "honoured" that such a high-profile personality has agreed to lend their support to the charity.
Officials at Lass decided to seek an international patron as a way of marking the 25th anniversary of its foundation.
They wrote to the retired Archbishop describing its journey from a struggling telephone helpline in June, 1987, for people affected by HIV and Aids to becoming Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland's leading HIV charity, supporting more than 500 affected by HIV today.
Agreeing to the patronage, the Archbishop wrote: "It is a heartwarming story.
"I am an octogenarian and have been jettisoning things and not taking on new responsibilities but I am touched by your story and will make an exception and agree to be patron of your organisation."
The Archbishop was in Leicester in July last year when he was made an honorary Doctor of Letters by the University of Leicester.
Jenny Hand, the charity's chief executive, said: "We are extremely honoured to be supported and valued by a man of such international stature. It is incredible and has given us a real boost. He is a person we admire greatly for his work with people with HIV in Africa and, of course, he has links with the University of Leicester."
The charity is hoping it will also be able to announce a national patron as it launches its 25th anniversary year celebrations on Saturday, June 9.
Ms Hand said: "HIV and Aids has changed a lot over the years and science has moved on, but there is still stigma attached to them.
"That is why for every three people who get tested there is another person who doesn't know.
"This is why our testing service is so important in encouraging new diagnosis.
"During our next 25 years we need to see how we can spread our learning to people living with long-term conditions and we will continue to help people in neighbouring areas such as Derby and Corby in developing services."
Lass, which costs about £500,000 a year to run, relies on NHS and Leicester City Council funding along with applications for money to a variety of other trusts and foundations.
It has a staff of 16 people and between 80 and 100 volunteers.
Patrick Bowe, chairman the Lass board of trustees, said it was a positive reflection on Leicester and the work done in the city across faiths and communities. He said: "We believe no better figure could have been welcomed as our international patron."
For more information go to: www.lass.org.uk
As you can imagine, this story has attracted much positive attention, locally and intrnationally. See how it's been covered in Soar Magazine and in The Zimbabwean.