Yes yes, know it’s Monday and I know you’d all rather be in bed than in the office but such is life. Come on, get a coffee and sit down. Right.
As most of you know by now I’ve been living with HIV for two years at this point and there’s not a single part of that journey I’ve not tweeted, blogged or spoken on TV/radio about. You’ve had front row seats to it all – the ups of getting good blood results, my birthdays, meeting my boyfriend, through to the lows of depression, nasty rumours and attempted suicide.
Over those two years I’ve been privileged enough to be able to not only share my story with you guys on UKPositiveLad.com and Twitter, but also with the general public too – I’m incredibly grateful to Attitude Magazine, FS Magazine, MidlandsZone Magazine, BASELINE Magazine, The Times, Gaydio, BBC Radio 4 & Radio 5 Live, BBC World News, Sky News and ITV Daybreak (I’m sure I’ve missed a few out) for giving me the chance to share my story with a wider audience and help me on my mission to educate and let others benefit from my misfortune.
During that time, however, I’ve noticed something of a vacuum when it comes to lifestyle content aimed at HIV-Positive people in the UK. For the most part HIV content online falls into one of two camps: 1. Prevention information aimed at HIV-negative people or 2. Medical information aimed at keeping HIV-Positive people healthy. Now I don’t know about you, but I think we deserve better…
So say hello to beyondpositive.
My initial vision for beyondpositive was an online lifestyle magazine written for HIV-Positive people by HIV-Positive people, but after some soul searching I felt that we were unnecessarily limiting ourselves. We often use the phrase “people living with HIV” when talking about HIV-Positive people, but at beyondpositive we’ve extended that definition to not just the person with HIV, but the people in their lives too – their partners, friends, family and co-workers.
HIV touches every facet of our lives, every person we’re close to – and so will beyondpositive. We aim to bring you the latest HIV related news from across the world, columnists from every walk of life, opinion pieces that aren’t afraid to raise a few eyebrows, reviews of products/apps/sites/etc that matter to you, healthy eating recipes and exercise plans.
Editor-in-chief of beyondpositive
As a side note: My blog will continue to be published here, but will also be replicated over on beyondpositive.org
Well the last twenty-four hours have been interesting. Yesterday afternoon I got an email from a producer at ITV’s Daybreak breakfast show asking me to give them a call, it turned out they wanted me on the sofa the next morning to give my opinion on the HIV home testing kits that are due to be legalised come April 2014.
I ended up being booked onto a train only a couple of hours later, a car met me at Euston and took me to my hotel where a camera crew turned up to shoot promos, they left about midnight and I set my alarm for 05:00am. My alarm went off, I got up made myself presentable and a car took me to the studio. After several coffee’s I got plonked on the Daybreak sofa with Dr Hilary Jones and we were interviewed by Matt Barbet and Kate Garraway. I think it went pretty well – but you can check out the interview here: https://www.itv.com/itvplayer/daybreak/15-08-2013 (I’m on at 07:23am).
The car picked me up again and dropped me off at London Euston. Just as I was about to board my train I got a call from SavingLivesUK who wanted me to talk on their behalf on BBC Radio 5 Live’s morning show. So they sent another car for me, whisked me off to BBC Broadcasting House and I was interviewed alongside Sir Nick Partridge of the Terrence Higgins Trust by Phil Williams. It was a much more in-depth piece on HIV, focusing on stigma and the lifting of the ban on HIV+ healthcare professionals. You can catch the interview on BBC iPlayer here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0388b33
After that I headed back to Euston and got a train home to Birmingham. Now I’m sat in my office at my day job struggling to keep my eyes open. I’m going to sleep well tonight!
Let me know what you think of the interviews in the comments section below!
On Sunday morning I awoke to a new follower, a producer on the Sky News team. Shortly after that I received a tweet and a DM from my new follower asking if I could talk on the phone, that was at 11am, by 3pm I was in front of the camera and waiting to go on air to talk about HIV home testing kits and my own experience of being diagnosed HIV-Positive.
Many thanks to Sky News for having me on to share my story, and permitting me to share the video clip with you.
Following on from yesterday’s blog post from Oliver Hotham who’d been attacked for voicing his opinion on the ludicrous so called organisation ‘Straight Pride UK’ (I’ve checked, they’re neither a registered charity or company) the people behind ‘Straight Pride UK’ posted a “Press Release” on their facebook page (now deleted) – it’s so bad it’s hilarious…
Straight Pride (UK) Statement
A Straight Pride Project (Straight Pride (UK) ) over in the UK has been facing a tough time in the last 24 hours, all thanks to a history student called Oliver. twitter.com/OliverHotham. He contacted Straight Pride’s (UK) Bureau pretending too be a journalist asking questions. Turns out that he is not a journalist but a seemingly underhanded follower of the Homosexual Agenda who like to call people bigots for not agreeing with what they see as homosexual perversion. They have a right to these views and opinions.
Oliver was very bad didn’t tell Straight Pride (UK) that he would be putting what Straight Pride (UK) told him online for all to see, ( It was a private release for him) and thus he did do Straight Pride (UK) contacted the blog hosts and was removed.
Now Oliver has been very naughty and given out the material so other offending individuals have posted it, in turn causing a a great deal of illegal Harassment, and unwanted contact, which is protected by law Under The Protection From Harassment Act in the United Kingdom.
Straight Pride (UK) did ask him nicely to ask those he has provided the content to, to remove it, but so far both he and the other offenders have not.
Straight Pride (UK) are not as worried as the other individuals who have been harassed, scared, stalked, had bomb threats, but Straight Pride UK are taking action and precautions because this is not right. One person should not be able to start a harassment campaign against something or someone because they don’t agree with their views.
Straight Pride (UK) do have this matter in hand and all will be sorted shortly where the project can get back to Promoting being Heterosexual. If nothing this has proved that society needs Straight Pride and heterosexual events, to enable heterosexuals to have the right to speak out against the alternative lifestyle.
Straight Pride (UK) and other Bureaus are not homophobic, and believe in traditional values and lifestyles and the right to speak as someone finds. Straight Pride UK do not believe in Unequal Rights, of which in the United Kingdom now has. There are two separate sets of rights, once for heterosexuals and one for homosexuals, with the homosexuals rights having the ability to trump those rights and beliefs of the heterosexuals, and those of faith.
Straight Pride (UK) ask heterosexuals from far and wide to gather together and stand up and be counted in this now overly politically correct world everyone finds themselves in.
In finishing, to Oliver you have had your fifteen minutes of fame, perhaps now is the time to get back to your homework or maybe by now you will have been offered a position by the UK Socialist Press.
Head of Operations Straight Forward Bureau, Moscow.
Laughable I’m sure you’ll agree. What wasn’t so funny though was their response when I posted this piece on my website…
A classy low blow from the bigots behind ‘Straight Pride UK’ showing their true colours and their “traditional values”. They’ve even gone as far as to protect their twitter accounts now so people can’t see what they’re saying – they’re so proud that they have to hide.
Since this all kicked off they’ve even changed their Twitter name from @StraightPrideUK to @prideofstraight, they weren’t quite clever enough however to keep hold of the old @StraightPrideUK Twitter name which has now become a fabulous parody account.
Rule 1. Don’t be a shit.
Rule 2. If you must be a shit, don’t be a stupid one.
This, rare, guest post on UKPositiveLad.com is a tale of the worrying harassment and censorship faced by Oliver Hotham – a young history student in London, by a objective ridiculous organisation called ‘Straight Pride UK’. I emplore you to read this post – then if you agree post it on your blog/facebook/twitter.
A few weeks ago, when thinking of interesting things I could write for this blog, I remembered a weird organisation that gathered some attention on the internet a month or two ago.
The organisation is called Straight Pride UK. It’s a strange group which believes that the tide of Gay rights has gone too far, and that now heterosexuals have become the oppressed minority. Essentially their philosophy is spun from the same reactionary cloth as “Men’s Rights activists” - the notion that, having essentially run Western society for most its existence, progressive demands that Christian white straight males share some of their total grasp on power is somehow a removal of their rights.
Anyway, I wrote to Straight Pride asking that they answer some questions. Stipulating that I was “a freelance journalist”, I sent them some questions, about what they do and what they believe.
About a week later they responded with an attached document with the title “press release”. I went through the questions, corrected the horrendous grammar, and organised it so it coherently answered the questions I’d posed. I also noted that two rather pointed questions I’d asked, regarding the problem of the bullying of LGBTI youth and the nature of other “pride” movements, had not been answered. I sent them an email about this, saying that I’d give them the opportunity to respond but, if they didn’t, I’d “make it clear in the article” that they avoided the questions. They didn’t get back to me for 2 days, which I thought ample time to write two sentences.
Fully satisfied that my journalism had made them look like the arses they are, I hit the publish button, and sat back, feeling all together really pleased with myself. I called the article “It’s great to be straight… yeah”, too, which I thought acutely summed up their philosophy and referenced a mid-90s dance album I rather like.
The article gained a lot of traction, too. A friend and I put it on Reddit, and I got thousands of hits. In my short career of attempting to become a respectable journalist, it was one of the most successful things I’d done.
Then came the email from Straight Pride UK’s press officer, Nick Steiner:
“It has been brought to my attention that you have published the email that I sent you to, you did not state this in your email request, nor you did have consent to do this.
I therefore request that you take down the article that you have placed on your blog.
You have 7 days in which to do this, failing this I shall submit a DMCA to WordPress to have it removed.”
I laughed this off, and responded to the email arguing their case was absurd:
1) There was no indication on the “press release” they sent me that it was copyrighted material. Nor did they make any mention of the fact that anything they gave me was copyrighted.
2) I wrote “I’m a journalist and I’d like to ask you some questions” in my first email. If you’re a press officer and you don’t know what this means, then you really aren’t qualified to have your job.
3) In my email about the questions they didn’t answer, I made reference to “the article”. If that isn’t an indication that I’m going to publish something then I really don’t what is.
I thought this was a good enough defence, and I assumed this would all be swept under the carpet, and that their rather sad attempts to remove my article because it made them look stupid were all for naught.
I was wrong – within a few days WordPress caved to them without question, removing my article and telling me if I tried to publish it again I’d be suspended, but that I could challenge the takedown of my article. I responded that yes, I very much would like to, and was emailed a form I’d have to fill in. One of the requirements was that I “consent to local federal court jurisdiction, or if overseas, to an appropriate judicial body”.
I’m a student. I don’t have the money, time, or patience to go through with potentially having to go to court over this. All in all, I just could not be bothered to challenge the decision.
So I accepted the takedown, feeling thoroughly shit about myself.
Then I get another email from Straight Pride UK, which pissed me off even more. They demanded I take down the material (which I had) but also that I:
“…remove all references to Straight Pride UK, The Straight Forward Project, along with images, and links, from your Blog.”
So not content with forcing me to eat a shit sandwich on dubious grounds and making me take down my work, they now demand that I never write anything about them again. Are these people kidding? Who the hell do they think they are that they can simply demand that I not write about them again, in an email with the pointedly sinister name of their solicitors at the bottom?
This, for me, was the final straw, and why I decided to write this article.
Because I find it absurd that this silly little group can simply demand that remove all my references to them because it makes them look bad. What are they afraid of? Their views make them look stupid enough, why the need to so aggressively bully and harass me? Why do they care so much?
And are they so cowardly that an article criticising them is enough to attempt to pursue a tenuous legal case against the author?
It really boggles the mind.
You can follow Oliver on Twitter as @OliverHotham
Sunday was a milestone for me, it was the two year anniversary of my HIV diagnosis.
Two years ago, on Thursday 4th August 2011, I was sat in Whittall Street Clinic Birmingham being told something that’d change my life forever – that I was HIV+.
The past two years have flown by, I’ve seen my CD4 as low as 364 and as high as 627, whilst my Viral Load has been on a constant drop from 79,000 to the ‘undetectable’ level it is now. I’ve gone from blogging anonymously about my fears of living with HIV to blogging publicly. I’ve written for a dozen magazines, as well as spoken on television and radio – heck I even launched the 2013 ICC Champions Trophy Cricket Final in front of 1.5bn people last month. When I started my blog over on WordPress just after my diagnosis I was too afraid to say who I was, I got a couple of hits a day and didn’t really know why I was doing it. Now in 2013 I’m out there, I’m getting 10,000 hits and 50-60 odd emails asking for support each day.
But whilst that’s exciting and everything, the biggest thing for me is how much I’ve come to terms with what is essentially a life long condition in such a short period of time and how I’ve been able to make use of my experience over the last couple of years to help other people who are coming to terms with their own diagnoses. Over the last year or so I’ve been volunteering at one of the local HIV clinics – offering a chaperon service to people new to the clinic, it’s been one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done. I’ve even personally raised over £8,000 for various HIV charities – which wouldn’t be possible without your support.
At the end of this month, August, I’ll be taking part in a training course with THT to become an Online Peer Support Volunteer over at MyHIV.org.uk. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a while but due to funding training course places are scarce – so I’m grabbing this opportunity with both hands!
To those who are just coming to terms with their own HIV diagnosis: Stand strong. Things may feel bad now, but just hold on in there. HIV is a bastard it’s true, but it doesn’t define who you are. You are and still can be amazing.
To those who have supported me along the way: Thank you, your constant love and support – it has been a constant source of strength for me, even in my darkest hours.
Thanks and all my love,
It’s July 2013 and we’re rapidly approaching the second anniversary of my HIV diagnosis and I’ve been on treatment for almost as long now.
When I originally started treatment at the end of 2011 I was put on ATRIPLA, a one-a-day pill that combines three drugs – each one fighting HIV in a different way. That was fine until recently, then I started experiencing alarming side-effects including insomnia, hallucinations and mood-swings. My doctors changed me to a new drug, Eviplera, which once again is three drugs in a one-a-day pill.
My response to the treatment has been tremendous, I was ‘undetectable’ in only a couple of months and my CD4 has been on an upward climb ever since. So that’s the physical side of things taken care of. Great.
What the pills don’t do, however, is help with the psychological impact of living with HIV. In fact in some ways, for me at least, they make things worse. I hear people say things like “Oh HIV is just one pill a day now”, and on the surface that can be true – but things are so much more complicated than that.
The pills serve as a daily reminder that you’re HIV-positive, each night I look at that pretty substantial pill and think about what it means, the fact that this is forever. You also end up surrendering a little piece of your brain to keep track of your meds, they’re never far off your mind.
Have I remembered to take today’s pill? Have I eaten enough calories to go with it? Have I accidentally taken two today? Have I got enough on me to last until my next appointment? Oh crap I’ve gone out for the night without any! Where’s my open bottle of pills? Must remember to fill up my pill sorter! Must remember to fill up my keychain pill-box!
Tonight for example I’m off to the boyfriend’s house after work, then we’re both off out for drinks, I’ve packed an overnight bag so I can stay at his afterwards too. I thought I had spare pills on me, but I’ve checked and I don’t. This means I either have to go back to my house after work then onto his, then onto drinks – or hope that I’m compos mentis enough after drinks to go back home to mine collect the pills and then go back to the boyfriend’s house. Argh, it’s a proper ballache.
Some of you might be thinking “Why not just skip tonight? Surely it won’t do you any harm.” – one night missed probably wouldn’t do me any harm that’s true, but then I’d start justifying other missed nights – skip too many doses and you run the risk of the HIV building a resistance to your medication and then you’ll have to change meds (and trust me, that’s not a pleasant experience).
The HIV medications we have in 2013 are a far cry from those of the nineties, they’re cleaner, simpler, have less side effects and dramatically increase the life expectancy of someone with HIV – without this one pill a day I have no doubt that I wouldn’t be alive now. But, people need to realise that it’s not like popping an Asprin when you can be bothered, it’s essential that these drugs are treated with respect – they need to be taken every day, at the same time, with the correct calorie intake otherwise they won’t work properly and your health will suffer.
HIV Meds – the life saving treatment that I’m so grateful for is also the thing that drives me round the twist. Life’s complicated sometimes isn’t it?
A year ago we were all back at home, or in work lamenting the absolute disaster that was WorldPride London 2012. We’d invited friends from all over the world to come join us in a huge celebration of equality and we failed to deliver in quite a spectacular fashion. Street licensing was denied, the parade was scaled back, entertainment was cancelled – all we got was a mini-march and Gok Wan on a stage telling us all to go home.
That was the last event organised by ‘Pride London’, their mismanagement and financial disasters embarrassed us all. This year the Mayor of London opened the contract to run ‘Pride in London’ up to bidding and a new Community Interest Company (CIC) called ‘London LGBT+ Community Pride’ was chosen. With only five months between being awarded the contract and the festival itself the organisers certainly had their work cut out for them.
There were concerns that it wouldn’t be done in time, that the finances wouldn’t stretch to meet what people have come to expect of a pride event in one of the world’s major cities. But those fears were unfounded. This year’s pride was one of the biggest and best I’ve ever attended – and I’ve been to a LOT of pride events in the last eleven years.
Across the whole weekend there was an electric buzz in the air, the festival had come together, the weather was good and everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves. The parade was one of the biggest yet with 150 individual walking groups, including representatives from LGBT organisations, sexual health charities, proud employers, LGBT sports teams and many many more. I was proud to be walking with the National AIDS Trust‘s HIV Activism group (the passion wagon) – a group of people dedicated to transforming the way people see HIV and those living with it.
I headed up to Soho after the parade with the Terrence Higgins Trust (THT) gang, we wandered around, spoke to some people and had a few G&Ts. The atmosphere was incredible – everyone was smiling, dancing and drinking. There were the usual queues for the bars but no-one seemed to mind – they were all too busy having a good time.
After last year’s debacle I sincerely wondered if we’d see another London Pride on the same scale of previous years, whether the failure of the year before would put people off attending or stop companies from sponsoring the event – but thankfully none of that came to pass. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank London LGBT+ Community Pride for putting on a great event, for rescuing London Pride, for showing us how it’s done – and for how professionally they ran the event and looked after those of use in the media.
Finally I’d like to thank the 1,200 volunteers who gave up their precious time to help ensure this event went smoothly – without you guys there wouldn’t have been a pride to go to. Bravo guys.
To view my photos from Pride in London 2013 – head over to my Flickr gallery here.
If you’d like to use one of my photos for someone please send me an email via my contact page.