I started writing this entry on the train back to Manchester from London after spending the weekend there to attend the People Living with HIV Conference 2013 hosted by Positively UK. I literally do not know how to begin describing how fantastic the day was.
I rarely have physical contact with other HIV Positive people; the vast majority of them I know through the internet, Twitter and online forums. So to walk into a room with dozens of people and know that they’ve had similar journeys to me, the same concerns and the same problems is really comforting, and yet each one of us is still an individual and still unique.
I was actually quite emotional on the train looking out of the window at big empty fields and felt like I had left a lot of old and new friends behind. I have so much love from my friends, family and my boyfriend but it’s always reassuring to share an experience with someone else who has a first-hand understanding of what you are talking about. Whether that’s feeling fat and bloated, being tired a lot of the time or getting angry about social situations. However, without the support of those who know me best I would not be where I am today. I wouldn’t have been able to have ever even considered being open about my status without knowing they were there to back me up if it weren’t to work out as well as it did.
This weekend has given me a much needed boost to believe that I can make a difference and be part of a generation that stands up to stigma, fear and ignorance. That I can champion the rights for those living with HIV and engage with those who have the ability to make a difference for us all. We need changes in education, we need equal access the health and social care, there needs to be funding for research into the real reasons why we are still seeing an increase in new diagnoses amongst MSM. A National HIV Strategy is necessary if we are to make these things a reality. I’m excited to do something NOW and that’s why I’m asking people to sign this petition.
Allan Anderson CEO of Positively UK has set this petition up calling on the government to recognise that people in the UK living with HIV need equal access to treatment and to health and social care. It proposes that the Government can achieve these goals IF it develops a National HIV Strategy. Myself and the attendees of Saturday’s conference have signed this petition, and now I am asking those of you in the UK to do the same. We really can’t expect change unless there is a united, distinct method to deliver it, and it is backed by those in power who represent us all.
I’m so excited and motivated to do more for the HIV community and can’t wait to get more involved in projects old and new. So many people have done a lot for me and those of my generation, paving the way for me to live openly with my status; it’s time I returned the favour.