Category Archives: Community
You may remember a week or so back I posted about a new HIV awareness campaign in England called ‘It Starts With Me’ – designed to educate people about HIV, how it’s spread, how it’s prevented and what they can do to fight HIV.
Well the campaign is really in full swing now, with events and awareness materials rolling out across England.
Yesterday I returned from a trip to Berlin with my friend Anthony to find a ‘It Starts With Me’ t-shirt waiting on my door step. So I popped it on and took a few snaps, you’ll probably see me at a few events up and down the country – including pride events wearing it, talking to people about their attitudes towards sexual health, testing and HIV.
Some quick HIV related facts from the It Starts With Me website:
- 1 in 4: The number of people with HIV in the UK aren’t aware that they have it
- 10 years: how much shorter your life could be if you delay testing
- 8 in 10: gay men get HIV from someone who doesn’t know they have it
- 25-29: the age group in which the most gay men test HIV positive
- 96%: Treatment for HIV can make you upto 96% less infectious to others
Please make sure to head over to the It Starts With Me website to find out more about HIV, and how YOU can stop it in its tracks.
As many of you who have been following my writings for some time now will know, I have frequently lambasted the UK Government, Department of Health and Health Protection Agency for failing to take any decisive action to curb the rising rate of HIV infections in the UK.
In recent years there’ve been numerous repetitive campaigns about cancer, stroke, mental health, alcohol, drugs, fruit & veg, exercise – even barbequed food, but nothing about HIV since the late 1980s. Well that changes this month.
24th April 2013 marks the launch of ‘It Starts With Me‘, a campaign created by The Terrence Higgins Trust and funded by HIV Prevention England (HPE), via the Department of Health, a campaign that will run (at least initially) for two years – until April 2015.
‘It Starts With Me’ is a campaign that will be delivered online, via the press, via posters/condom packs in venues and via local outreach teams. HPE will funding national and regional organisations to promote the campaign up and down England.
The campaign focuses on:
- Testing for HIV at least once every twelve months, and more frequently if they have taken a risk, or show symptoms of seroconversion illness.
- Taking the medication they need to stay fit and well, if they have been diagnosed with HIV.
- Protecting themselves during sex by using condoms and finding other ways to avoid risk.
- Participating in community action by finding a way to support the campaign and spread the word to their friends and contacts.
Make sure to check out www.startswithme.org.uk, the website for the campaign, and watch the short introductory video, which includes many interesting facts like 1 in 4 people in the UK with HIV don’t know that they have the virus, and that treatment is easier than ever and dramatically reduces the risk of you passing the virus onto anyone else.
It Starts With Me.
A quick event update for you all:
Positive East and the London Gay Men’s Chorus ensemble announced that they will be putting on
another show together to raise funds for the charity’s HIV support services for gay men in London.
The show is called Good Vibrations, and takes place in St Pancras Church on Saturday 13th April.
Following on from last year’s spectacular show the Chorus will put on another night of show
The event will raise funds specifically in support of Positive East’s services for gay men in London.
It’s estimated that 1 in 12 men in London gay are HIV positive. There are more gay and bisexual men
living with HIV in London than ever before. This makes the work of Positive East, and their network
of one-to-one and group support sessions, more important than ever before.
It’s vital that people don’t become isolated from their communities as a result of their HIV status,
and supporting this event will help make sure that doesn’t happen.Tickets for this one-off show are available online, at www.ticketsource.co.uk/positiveeast.
For further information you can call the box office on 020 7791 9353.
All the best,
Tuesday 29th January 2013 heralds a new era for the LGBT community in Birmingham, and the Midlands in general with the opening of the Birmingham LGBT Health & Wellbeing Centre.
The Big Lottery Fund and Birmingham City Council have generously donated £479,263 and £250,000 respectively to get this ambitious project off the ground.
None of this would be possible without the hard work and persistence of Steph Keeble (Director) and David Viney (Health & Wellbeing Manager) who’ve worked tirelessly over the last year and a half to make this project a reality.
The centre will offer a range of services from it’s in-house clinic including a Sexual Health service, provided by Healthy Gay Life and Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust – along side smoking cessation and alcohol misuse counselling.
Depression, self harm and suicide continues to damage the LGBT community and especially LGBT youth. This problem is especially profound in Birmingham where 48% of LGBT people interviewed claim to have thought about suicide, and 20% claim to have attempted it.
There will be a Cafe/Bar area run by MatchBox – who will provide a range of healthy light meals and drinks, this space will be available in the evening for events in the LGBT community, along with a number of training and meeting rooms – which will also be able to be hired out by local businesses.
To find out more about the Birmingham LGBT Health & Wellbeing Centre either pop along to (38/40 Holloway Circus Birmingham. B1 1EQ) or visit their website: http://www.blgbt.org/
Matthew Walters is the Gay Men’s worker and Health Trainer for Positive East, a vital HIV support charity based in East London. Today he’s telling us all the story his diagnosis and asking that you help support him in his latest challenge, climbing Kilimanjaro to help raise funds to provide essential services – and give back to a charity that has helped him find his feet again after diagnosis. Please read on…
5 years after my diagnosis in 2005, I found myself in quite a bad state. Being HIV Positive was making life difficult. Eventually, everything had started to get on top of me. Some friendships had been lost, and generally I was in quite a dark and depressing place.
I finally plucked up the courage to access support from a HIV charity. New to East London, I found myself knocking on the door of Positive East.
Positive East instantly offered me a wide range of support including Counselling, the Gay Men’s Support Group, Careers Advice, help with Housing and Hardship. I often used to pop in and use the gym and internet café which gave me an opportunity to keep active, make new friends and get on with my life.
Within a short space of time, I went from a place of despair to a bright and happy future thanks to the support that Positive East had given me. Grateful to the support I had received, in 2006 I wanted to give something back so started to volunteer for the organisation. In 2009, I started working for that charity and I’m still here today helping to give individuals living with and affected by HIV the support that I received 7 years ago.
I want to raise £5,000 by the time I set off next month, and I need your help. Just go to http://www.justgiving.com/
You can also follow Matthew on Twitter as: @HIVpozGayMan
Lots of Love,
Today, Saturday 1st December 2012, is the 24th World Aids Day.
We’ve come a long way in thirty-four years. Back then a HIV diagnosis was more often than not followed with an AIDS diagnosis and a high likelihood of death. Now in 2012 HIV is a manageable condition, with early diagnosis and modern treatment regimens we can expect to live as long as any of our HIV- contemporaries, some say even longer with the constant health monitoring and care we receive.
But HIV still has no cure, it’s a life long condition – one that is not easy to live with, either physically or emotionally. The HIV related complications are numerous, the risk of certain cancers is dramatically higher and that’s not even mentioning the stigma and discrimination HIV+ people can still face today.
Whilst things may have improved dramatically for people living with HIV in the developed world the same thing can’t be said for others around the world. Deaths from HIV/AIDS in Africa are still unconscionably high. We need to work on providing support, education, cheaper medication and contraception. If we’re going to fight this epidemic we need to hit it – HARD.
Closer to home, I hear a lot of people asking “What does World AIDS Day have to do with me?”, and until I was diagnosed I’m ashamed to admit that I was one of those people. We’re bombarded with so many “international days” it’s hard to keep track of what’s happening when and whether it’s worth getting involved. In November alone there are TWENTY-FOUR “international days” including:
- World Planning Day
- World Kindness Day
- World Pneumonia Day
- World Hello Day
- World Fisheries Day
But World AIDS Day is one of the biggies. It happens in most countries around the world with the backing of the United Nations and the World Health Organisation. It’s a time to reflect on those we’ve lost to the disease internationally over the few decades, time to think about how we can help work towards a HIV free generation, and time to think about our own behavior.
Leading up to this year’s World AIDS Day there was the first UK wide ‘HIV Testing Week’ – an initiative to get people up and down the country regardless of gender, age, sexuality or ethnicity to go and get tested. Something I wrote about the other day ‘Read more…’
But don’t let the good work stop there, if you didn’t get chance to go get tested this week – go next week! Once you’ve done it put an appointment in your diary to go again in six months, the short time it takes to get tested is a small price to pay for peace of mind and being in control of your own health, and the health of those you sleep with.
I’m going to be spending today wandering around Central London with the Terrence Higgins Trust rattling buckets and collecting money to help continue the fight against HIV. If you see us please fling some change our way, and if you don’t perhaps you could go online and donate something?
Whatever you do this World AIDS Day do it with kindness, love and thought.
Happy Friday to you lovely people,
Today, Friday 23rd November 2012 marks the start of National HIV Testing Week here in England. This is the first time such a large initiative has been run to encourage the people of England to go out and get tested.
National HIV Testing Week runs from Friday 23rd November to Friday 30th November, finishing just before World AIDS Day on Saturday 1st December.
The initiative is being run by the Terrence Higgins Trust, the UK’s largest HIV charity (who are celebrating their 30th birthday this year) and supported by a whole host of other organisations such as BASHH, BHIVA and the HPA.
Many people are put off going for HIV test by a fear of needles or having blood taken, but the fact is most clinics these days use rapid testing known as FastTest which involves a simple prick on your finger and you’ll get the results within minutes.
Annie Lennox was interviewed this week for ITV News about her views on HIV and testing in the UK, she said:
“We’re still struggling with the issue of stigma, fear and ignorance, There are many people that now, actually need to get tested. Friday 23rd at the end of the is the begining of National Testing week here in the country and we’ll be encouraging people to go get tested and find out their status… Go and get tested, find out your status, then you can know what you’re dealing with.” You can watch the full interview here: http://vimeo.com/53871991
Boris Johnson, The Mayor of London said:
“London is home to almost half of all people living with HIV in the UK, but a quarter of them are unaware that they carry the virus. It is vital that people who might be at risk get tested, not only to reduce the risk of transmission to others, but to ensure that they get the life-saving treatments that are available”
Even if you’ve been tested recently, or are HIV+ why not help promote National HIV Testing week via your facebook or Twitter using #HIVTestingWeek and encourage your friends to go and get tested. The sooner you know, the sooner you can take control of your health and protect those around you.
Enjoy your Friday and weekend!
Lots of Love,
When I first decided to write a blog post about acceptance I had no idea where to start. Do I do it from a HIV point of view? A gay point of view? Then I thought to myself acceptance shouldn’t labelled or pigeon-holed, acceptance should be universal.
Clearly I can’t cover all aspects of life, love and religion in one post so I’m just going to pick a couple of issues that interest or impact on me.
Everywhere you look these days you’re surrounded by images of perfectly sculpted men and women, you can’t avoid it. Open a magazine and there are scantily clad gods hawking aftershave, turn on the TV seasoned presenters have been replaced by beautiful but clueless models with an earpiece, and have you tried finding decent porn with normal looking people in it? Impossible.
Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a bit of eye-candy as much as the next person – but it’s not healthy that it’s presented as the only way to be. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve flicked through the glossy magazines only to be left with a heavy heart when I realise I’m never going to look like any of these people.
I’m in my twenties, tall, skinny and a bit hairy, in the grand scheme of things that’s not bad – but I can’t help thinking that if I were buff and shiny I’d be happier. I should be happy with myself the way I am, and that’s something I need to work on more.
HIV & The Gay Community
Acceptance and it’s evil twin discrimination aren’t just about the way we look either. There are a number of medical conditions that have stimga attached to them, such as addiction, mental health problems and the one that affects me most HIV.
I’ve never understood the rationale behind discriminating against those who suffer medically in one way or another. This is something that I’ve paid more attention to in recent months, for obvious reasons, than before. I can’t change the fact that I have HIV, I didn’t ask to contract HIV, you can’t get infected by being my friend – so why view me with a constant air of suspicion and treat me like a second class citizen?
Disturbingly, the group that seem to discriminate most against those with HIV in society are gay men. At a time when 1 in 7 gay men in our capital city are HIV positive why the discrimination? Gay men are already marginalised by society as it is, further marginalising a section of that group seems insane to me. Out of all the people I’ve disclosed my HIV status to, the only people that have had an issue have been gay men.
Come on guys, sort yourselves out.
Sophie Wilson: My Geek Hero
To end my post on a happier note, here’s a bit about my geek hero.
As some of you might already know I’m a huge geek. I work in IT, I live IT, I breathe IT. I grew up using computers from an early age, at three years old I recieved an Acorn Electron and my love affair grew from there. I had PCs at home from five years old but for most of my school life I carried on using Acorn computers.
They were truly amazing bits of kit. They played games, composed music, let me type up my school work – all without breaking a sweat. Acorn Computers collapsed in 2000 but my love affair with them has remained strong. In 1990 Acorn Computers spawned a new company, specialising in processor design, called ‘Advanced RISC Machines’, a company some of you may know as ARM. Today ARM’s processors power 95% of mobile phones, 90% of hard-drives, digital cameras, television sets and much much more.
The person behind the ARM RISC processor was always referred to as ‘Wilson’. I’d always imagined ‘Wilson’ to be a beardy guy with glasses, a Clive Sinclair kinda guy. It was only recently I found out that Wilson was the surname of Roger Wilson. In 1994 Roger Wilson became Sophie Wilson via gender reassignment surgery – and a very handsome woman she is too.
Since then she’s become one of the most highly respected electronic designers in the world. She was ranked 8th of 15 most Important Women in Tech History by Maximum PC in 2011 and has become a fellow at the Computer History Museum in California. She truly inspires me. She has show me that no matter what your past, or what people think of you, you can always do great things and you don’t have to hide who you are in the process.
Thank you Sophie.
Peace and Love,
Launched a year ago MyHIV.org.uk (run by THT and funded by EJAF) has developed into an amazing online resource for people living with HIV in the UK, regardless of gender, ethnicity or sexual orientation. The site boasts a myriad of tools to help you manage your HIV and to make new friends, these include:
- The Forums. Now with over a thousand members the forums are a busy and lively place to make new friends, find peer support, ask questions, arrange social events and find out HIV related news – and coming soon a ‘Looking to meet’ HIV dating section.
- One to one online counselling, advice and health training. Speak directly, one on one in a private chat room with a qualified counsellor or HIV professional. Get honest, friendly and useful advice on relationships, benefits, housing, health and more.
- Text and email alerts. Get personalised medication alerts direct to your mobile phone or email account. We all lead busy lives and it can be very easy to let medication slip, so keep on top of it with text/email alerts.
- CD4 and Viral Load tracking. Input your latest clinic results directly into the MyHIV website to create a real time graph of your progress through treatment. This will help you see how your treatment is working over the long term, something that can be harder to appreciate with just numbers.
- My Life check. A set of four mini quizes that you complete every six months or so, that help flag up any gaps in your understanding or potential issues that you may not have noticed yourself.
- Your Stories. A section dedicated to video and written experiences from real people with HIV in and around the UK.
In the coming months MyHIV will also be launching its very own iPhone application, allowing you to access the online resources of MyHIV, as well as the forums, on the move wherever you happen to be.
Over 2,700 people have registered with MyHIV.org.uk since its launch. I’m proud to be one of those people, the forums enabled me to make contact with other HIV positive people for the first time, and the online counselling has helped me out of some very dark times. It’s free to join, so what’ve you got to lose. Sign up and meet some truly amazing people.
So please, join me in congratulating MyHIV.org.uk and the wonderful team behind it on this great success. Here’s to many more years to come.