Former music manager John McIntyre was unsure how he would cope when lockdown began.
“I was very scared,” said the 75-year-old who has a respiratory condition and lives alone in a one-bedroom flat in Dalston. “If I caught Covid, I wouldn’t be able to get enough oxygen to the heart. I just had to follow the advice and be safe.” Mr McIntyre, who used to manage the jazz reggae band The Beatroots, has chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and emphysema.
He has relied for his daily meal from local charity Made In Hackney which is supplied by our Help the Hungry appeal partner, The Felix Project. Mr McIntyre is one of more than two million people who are classified as “extremely vulnerable” because they have compromised immune systems. For the last 10 weeks, many of them have struggled to get access to food.
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Since March, volunteers from the River House Trust charity have been dropping off Felix produce to people living with HIV. One such volunteer is former actor Stephen Hart who was diagnosed in 2006. When he is too ill to leave the house, he also uses the food delivery service.
Despite being high-risk and a life-long diabetic, Mr Hart has been helping to get food to those more vulnerable than him. He has been unable to work since his health deteriorated two years ago, but Mr Hart, who lives alone in south London, said he wanted to help others.
“When I feel well enough, I pick up boxes from River House and drop them off for people who need them,” he said. “I do it when I can but some days are bad days.”
Mr Hart said his condition means sometimes he can’t get out of bed. He occasionally receives a Felix box for himself so he knows he has food when he is too sick to move. “It is reassuring to have food in the house,” he said. “Felix has been a lifeline.”
Although the British HIV Association said there “remains no evidence” that people with HIV are at greater risk of Covid-19 infection, those with a low CD4 count – the white blood cells affected by HIV – have been advised to shield.
Mr Hart said members of the HIV community have been “nervous” since the outbreak. “There isn’t much specific advice so the community has been trying to look after each other.”
A 62-year-old living with HIV for 37 years, who asked not to be named, described how his parcels have helped him. He said: “I pick up the boxes as I don’t have energy to go shopping. They’ve been great.”
Mr Hart said it was extremely moving to see the response to his deliveries: “It is amazing. Everyone is very grateful.”
The Independent is encouraging readers to help groups that are trying to feed the hungry during the crisis – find out how you can help here. Follow this link to donate to our campaign in London, in partnership with the Evening Standard