A RUNNER living with HIV has described the 1980s’ Aids crisis as a “dress rehearsal” for the coronavirus pandemic.

Craig Hanlon-Smith has taken on a 20-day challenge running the distance of his typical commute to London to raise money for the Terence Higgins Trust, which supports people with HIV and has a centre in Ship Street in Brighton.

Craig wanted to do something to help the charity sector during the pandemic and said that although he is healthy, many others living with HIV are affected by depression and other mental health issues.

The 48-year-old from Millers Road in Brighton believes there are significant parallels between the Aids crisis and Covid-19.

He said: “I’m nearly 50 so I remember the emergence of HIV and Aids in the 1980s and what that meant.

“Coronavirus is a very different virus but it’s almost like we had a dress rehearsal in some ways.

“The gay and trans communities were effectively in lockdown.

“In the early days even healthcare workers didn’t want to be assigned on those wards because they were frightened of it.

“It’s a different time now – no-one clapped for the volunteers helping people back then.

“Of course I applauded for Clap for Carers but I think key workers should include mental health workers and the whole of the charity sector.”

Craig says there are also unfortunate parallels in some of the public reactions to recent protests during the crisis.

He said: “There have been a lot of news reports talking about a second wave of the virus following the Black Lives Matter protests, but attending a protest is no different to going to a busy beach.

“It just feels like we could be laying the groundwork for certain groups to be blamed.

“It’s also interesting when you hear people say the Government has been too slow to act.

“I think it was about six weeks between the first case of coronavirus and Boris Johnson sending out a letter – the first person to die of Aids was in 1981 and there was no official letter sent until 1987.”

Craig, who is the centre principal at the Chelsea and North Kensington branch of Morley College London, is running 144 miles over 20 days, which is the distance between Brighton and London Bridge.

He has already raised more than £2,000 for the Terence Higgins Trust.

The charity has a hardship fund to help people living with HIV who need additional support during the coronavirus crisis.

Unlike many commuters, Craig actually misses his daily trips to the capital.

He said: “I work in London but I’ve lived in Brighton a long time, and I really miss going there.

“You might not hear that very often.

“It’s just such a big change – you’re working from home and not seeing your colleagues or friends or going to the gym.

“You end up missing that closeness.”

To donate to Craig’s fundraising campaign, visit his JustGiving page.