This time last summer I left the comfort of my old workplace, which I loved and had spent eight years developing my career in to jump into the unknown. A new sector, new(ish) city, new people and a brand new job.
I’d always had a vision to work in HIV eventually, but always presumed this would come much later in life, potentially when I was looking to wind down (haha, if only I’d known…) or fancied something different before I retired. But when the opportunity presented itself last year to apply for a role at Terrence Higgins Trust I couldn’t ignore it, to be able to just try something you truly love and enjoy is very rare and special.
I hit the ground running in many ways. Entering a relatively new team I enjoyed being able to shape and approach the role with a fairly blank sheet of paper. The first few months flew by ridiculously quickly, numerous conferences and before I could take a breath it was National HIV Testing Week and World AIDS Day. This whirlwind will start again in just a couple of weeks – I can’t wait.
What I love about my role is being able to speak with so many different people and being able to work with those who I’ve admired for a number of years. More than anything though I love being able to see the impact of the work Terrence Higgins Trust do for our clients. Whether speaking to them face to face at events and workshops or online via myHIV I love that I witness changes in them all, that they develop as stronger and more confident people, with a fire and passion inside them, just like I have.
I am a strong believer that is the people who live with the experiences of a long-term condition like HIV who know what the best care and support looks like.
If you live with HIV and want to be involved in the sector, do it. Volunteer, become an activist, attend as many events as you can, and apply to work for HIV charities and organisations. In one year I have had ups and downs, at times things don’t progress as quickly as I would like, sometimes I don’t think people always walk in the shoes of people with HIV as much as they could- but every job is like that, we all get frustrated when we are so passionate about something so important to us. But I have not regretted it for one moment.
For every day I’ve got home and moaned there have been hundreds more where I have smiled from ear to ear, boring friends and family to death with what we’re working on, where I have been so proud of the volunteers in the myHIV team, of my Policy and Press colleagues doing amazing work. Seeing the sector work together to fight for PrEP and to stop cuts to HIV support services. Witnessing clients grow from being worried and scared about their diagnosis becoming confident people in a matter of weeks and months and being able to support others who arrive in the same boat.
One of my favourite moments was World AIDS Day last year, hearing from colleagues who had bumped into my dad wearing his red ribbon in Kings Cross Station and saying how awesome he was, knowing my friends and family were doing the same that day and seeing my colleagues out of the office tackling stigma head on was overwhelming, I even had a little joyful cry in the toilets at one point that day, I was so proud.
The past 365 days have been a total rollercoaster and I can’t wait to ride the next one.