Sunil Gupta – From Here to Eternity

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From ‘From Here To Eternity’ by Sunil Gupta

Sunil Gupta, is a HIV positive photographer who specialises in self portraiture, documentary and emotive photography.

In his series ”From Here to Eternity,” seen complete here, is in diptych format. On the left are snapshot-style pictures of the artist, in two cases in the process of receiving H.I.V.-related medical treatment. On the right are pictures of exteriors of gay clubs in London, deserted in daylight. The pairings look simple but are laced with complicated information.

In one lefthand photo, Mr. Gupta hugs a small pet dog; behind him hangs a framed picture of the phallic-looking Delhi landmark called the Qutab Minar, a 13th-century mosque tower built by Muslim colonizers. (Its Arabic inscription reads that it was built to cast the long shadow of God over the conquered Hindu city.) The right panel shows the locked gate like door of a club and beside it, a billboard with the words ”If God exists, why doesn’t He help you?”

The celebratory sense of communal empowerment sometimes associated with art produced in response to AIDS is missing here. Instead, social gathering places are inaccessible, desolate, sometimes half-hidden. Tenderness is a solitary emotion. Liberation takes the comfortless form of unromantic self-awareness.

Generating awareness, personal and public, has propelled Mr. Gupta’s career for nearly two decades, as an artist, writer and curator. He doesn’t makes it easy to come by; it rarely has a feel-good payoff, but it is the moral spine of this fine show.

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Ramadan, Fasting & HIV.

Crescent Moon

Image Credit: Tom Robson (tjrfoto.wordpress.com) © 2015

Ramadan is the name of one of the 12 lunar months of the Islamic calendar.  For 29 days of Ramadan, Muslims fast from sunrise until sunset.  Many HIV-positive wish to join their community in observing this important month, can they?

During Ramadan, Muslims practice the maximum self-control by denying their bodies every earthly pleasure during the daylight.  This means that eating food and drinking (including water).

After sunset, a fasting individual may eat and drink.  Many attend Mosques at night to pray and socialise.  Ramadan ends when the next crescent moon is born and celebrated with Eid ul-Fitr [breaking fast feast].

Fasting is a healthy practice for people with good health; the Quran exempted some categories from fasting – the sick, pregnant, breastfeeding mothers and travellers — and the wisdom behind this waiver is to spare hardship or damage. However, in spite of the Quranic waiver to those who are sick, many Muslims insist on fasting even if they have a minor health condition, justified the rewarding experience and of course to be part of the community.  Of course if you decide not to fast, the Quran says that you are obliged to feed someone who is less fortunate than you.

The question is, can someone or should someone who is HIV positive fast for Ramadan?

The best person to help you decide is your HIV doctor.  To help you and your doctor make the decision, you need to take under consideration some general factors, such as: when you were diagnosed, your overall health, your viral load and T-cell count.  Those in the early period of treatment should not fast, because the body is still trying to adjust to HIV and the treatment which you are having.

If you have been on treatment for some time, and your T-cell numbers are good, with undetectable viral load, and an overall good health then you might consider discussing your wish to observe Ramadan with your doctor.  Explain to her/him that you cannot let any substance go down your mouth to your stomach from sunrise to sunset.

Ask your doctor if your medication regimen could be adjusted with no risk, so you can take it before the sunrise and/or after the sunset.  If you are on a one pill regimen it might be easier for you to fast than if you are on a multiple pill one.

Once you get the green light from your doctor, you still need to take extra steps when fasting Ramadan.

For example, try to prepare good supplements to use on a daily basis during the month if you haven’t been doing so; in Ramadan eating less meals a day could seriously decrease your intake of important minerals and vitamins. Drink plenty of water during the night and avoid salty meals that could make you thirsty. Avoid unnecessary exposure to sun or heat to avoid dehydration. Do not overload your body with work and rest well while fasting.

Medical experts appeal to those who fast and ask them to stay from fizzy or carbonated drinks like cola, lemonade & other flavours even at Lftar (fast-breaking time).  A long day of fasting causes dehydration of the kidneys.  Having cold and fizzy drinks can suddenly cause the kidneys to fail.  Instead, use fresh water and fresh juices.

Ramadan is a good opportunity to quit bad habits; remember that smoking is not allowed while fasting, so if you do smoke maybe this is a good time to quit.

Fasting can also have great health benefits if done the proper way.  According to Mayo Clinic, “Regular fasting can decrease your low-density lipoprotein, or ‘bad,’ cholesterol. It’s also thought that fasting may improve the way your body metabolizes sugar. This can reduce your risk of gaining weight and developing diabetes, which are both risk factors for heart disease.”

Remember: the Quran forbids Muslims to commit acts that could even remotely jeopardise your health.  If your doctor advised against fasting, or if you have any concern that fasting might hurt your health, then don’t fast and invest the month in doing all the other good deeds that you can do; you can delay your lunch meal to be able to join your community in the daily fast-breaking ceremony.

We wish you a joyful and happy Ramadan filled with blessings and generosity.  We hope this Ramadan will enable you explore the great benefits of spirituality while fighting against HIV/AIDS or any other hardship.

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FREE TRAINING: HIV, Health & Wellbeing

Origami-crane

When we talk about mental wellbeing, we mean more than just happiness.  We know that physical and mental wellbeing are closely related.

Of course, feeling happy is a part of mental wellbeing but it is far from the whole. There is a deeper kind of wellbeing, which is about living in a way that is good for you and good for others around you.

Feelings of contentment, enjoyment, confidence and engagement with the world are all a part of mental wellbeing. Self-esteem and self-confidence are, too.  So is a feeling that you can do the things you want to do.  And so are good relationships, which bring joy to you and those around you.

Wellbeing and society

Over the last 50 years, we in Britain have become richer. Despite this, evidence from population surveys – in which people were asked to rate their own happiness or mental wellbeing – shows that mental wellbeing has not improved.

This suggests that many of the things we often think will improve our mental wellbeing – such as more possessions, more money to spend or expensive holidays – on their own do not lead to a lasting improvement in the way we feel about ourselves and our lives.

The message is clear: it’s time to rethink wellbeing.

Wellbeing in your life

Many factors influence our wellbeing. Evidence shows that the actions we take and the way we think have the biggest impact.  It can help to think about “being well” as something you do, rather than something you are.  The more you put in, the more you are likely to get out and the first thing you can do for your own wellbeing is become curious about it!

FREE TRAINING

We’re offering a free ‘HIV, Health & Wellbeing’ session .  The aim of this sessuin is to explore how overall health and wellbeing can be affected by being diagnosed with, living with or affected by HIV.  The session will explore different approaches to increase health & wellbeing for ourselves and for people we interact or work with.

This session will be of interest and benefit for people who are affected by HIV, those who work with people living with or affected by HIV and those who are involved in different wellbeing issues and solutions.

Date: Tuesday, 23rd June 2015
Time: 10:00 – 12:00am

To book, please download and complete this booking form and email it to, training@lass.org.uk.

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Would you buy a magazine laced with HIV-positive blood?

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Story via the National Post

To make a big point, a small Austrian men’s magazine printed an entire edition using ink laced with HIV-positive blood. The idea, said Julian Wiehl, co-publisher of The Vangardist — a “progressive” magazine aimed at young, urban men — was to make a statement about the stigma still associated with the virus that no one could ignore.

I think you’ll agree they succeeded, wildly.

“If you see the magazine . . . the first question that comes to your mind is, ‘Would I touch it? Would I take it in my hands?’ ” Wiehl said in an interview. “And the second question is, ‘Why would I touch it?’ or ‘Why wouldn’t I touch it?’ ”

From a health and safety perspective, picking up the magazine is not a problem. As we’ve known for many years, the human immunodeficiency virus quickly dies outside the body and can only be transmitted by direct contact with body fluids, mainly blood and semen. To be doubly sure, and to kill any other pathogens, Vangardist autoclaved the HIV-positive blood obtained from three donors before mixing it with the red ink used to print the magazine. The ink used in all 3,000 copies of the printed edition is 1 part blood to 28 parts ink, Wiehl said. There also is some blue ink to highlight its “Heroes of HIV” theme.

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The magazine comes in a sealed wrapper, forcing the reader to “break the seal to break the stigma,” Wiehl said. To avoid violating laws that govern transport of blood or blood products across borders, the edition can be ordered only online.

Normally, the five-year-old Vangardist puts out 10 digital issues a year aimed, Wiehl said, at young, progressive urban men who, he said, don’t fit gay or straight stereotypes. It covers health, fashion and sexuality, among other topics.

But with the Life Ball, one of the world’s biggest anti-AIDS charity events, scheduled for May in Vienna, headquarters of the Vangardist, the magazine wanted to make a statement. It came up with a special, printed issue devoted to “Heroes of HIV,” and its Geneva-based ad agency Saatchi and Saatchi suggested using HIV-positive blood in the printing process.

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Three HIV-positive people — the heroes of “HIV heroes” — donated their blood for the magazine: A 47-year-old mother, a gay 26-year-old man and a 32-year-old straight man. (It didn’t take much; all the ink for the edition weighed only 2.5 kilos, or about 5.5 pounds, Wiehl said.) Two of the three donors, he pointed out, don’t fit the stereotype we immediately associate with HIV. That was another point the magazine wanted to make.

“The stigma of HIV, although we have all these medical advances, is still a hard topic,” he said.

Vangardist also wants the public to note that infections are on the rise in parts of the world, and that 30 years after the epidemic began it is still not under control.

“By fighting the stigma, we also want to fight new infections,”Wiehl said.

AIDS activists have cheered the magazine since it was announced a few days ago, Wiehl said, and sales will start May 7. Media coverage is slowly spreading across the globe.

The next time you meet someone with HIV, Vangardist hopes, you’ll already have examined your feelings about him or her, the virus and the ongoing spread of a disease that infects 35 million people around the globe.

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HIV Positive Votes in the General Election 2015

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It’s only a week until the general election on Thursday, 7th May. It looks like being the closest election in living memory, meaning the way you vote could be the most important political decision of your life.

With lots of talk about care, health and the NHS, it’s difficult to see where our political parties position themselves in terms of support for people living with HIV. This isn’t surprising as focus tends to be put on financing and restructuring health and social care, rather than on individual health conditions.

Do you know who your voting for yet or are you still not sure? – If you’re not, you are not alone! Polls show that more people than ever before are still trying to decide which of the parties to support.

Part of the problem is information overload. We’re drowning in fact and figures about politics, claims and counter-claims from the politicians and their spin-doctors. How is anyone supposed to cut through it all to the things that really matter to them?

You may be asking, as a HIV positive individual, what party will ensure my care, and what HIV (or anti-HIV) policies can I expect from our government and now is the time to decide if you prefer to vote for the status quo, or vote for change.

A HIV diagnoses is only part of the issue, what to matters is access to GP’s and ensuring our NHS is adequately staffed to support patients in need of medical assistance. While there’s no direct messages from our political leaders about HIV, (other than sensationalised media reports) we can see their pledges for health & social care which directly affects not just people living with HIV, but for many other people who use public services.

The following information is provided to help give clarity across the parties’ pledges.  We are obviously not advising you who to vote for but we hope this information is useful if you are yet to make up your mind.

What is the main message?

ConsA strong NHS built on a strong economy, prioritising frontline care

 

labWill rescue the NHS, invest in its future and join up services from
home to hospital

lib-d

Quality health for all, with a guarantee of equal care for mental health

 

ukipFund frontline services and encourage a common-sense approach with less political interference

greenA publicly funded, publicly provided NHS and an end to the privatisation of services

How much money have they pledged for the NHS?

ConsA minimum real-terms increase of £8 billion a year by 2020

 

labAn annual £2.5 billion ‘time to care’ fund, paid for by a mansion tax, a levy on tobacco firms and by tackling tax avoidance

lib-dFunding to be £8 billion a year higher by 2020

 

ukipIncrease frontline NHS spending by £3 billion a year by 2020

 

greenAn immediate increase of £12 billion a year, rising to £20 billion a year by 2020, raising some of the extra revenue from higher taxes on alcohol and tobacco

What about social care?

ConsNo commitment to increase social care funding.  A guarantee that no one will have to sell their home to fund residential social care.

labNo commitment to increase social care funding. Year-of-care budgets to incentivise better care at home, an end to 15-minute home care visits and a ban on zero-hours contracts for care workers.

lib-dNo commitment to increase social care funding. Reduce pressure on hospitals by investing £500 million a year in services close to people’s homes.

ukipIncrease social care funding by £1.2 billion a year by 2020

 

greenProvide free social care for older people, spending an additional £9 billion a year by 2020

 

Have they committed to delivering integrated care?

ConsYes – building on the Better Care Fund and proposals to pool £6 billion of health and social care funding in Greater Manchester

labYes – physical health, mental health and social care services to be integrated to provide ‘whole-person care’, with a stronger role for health and wellbeing boards

lib-dYes – all health and social care budgets to be pooled by 2018, a stronger role for health and wellbeing boards and responsibility for social care to be transferred to the Department of Health

ukipYes – fully integrate health and social care funding and responsibilities, under the control of the NHS

greenYes – social care to be provided free at the point of use in line with the recommendations of the Commission on the Future of Health and Social Care in England

 

And do they support the NHS five year forward review?

ConsYes – senior Conservatives have publicly backed it, and their funding commitments are closely tied to it

labIn principle – Andy Burnham has stated his support but made clear Labour would make ‘fundamental changes’ that would alter the assumptions it is based on.

lib-dYes – senior Liberal Democrats have made their support clear, and they were the first party to commit to the £8 billion funding increase it calls for

ukipNo mention of it

 

greenNo mention of it

 

What are their plans to access to services?

ConsAll patients to have access to GPs and hospital care seven days a week by 2020.  Guaranteed same-day appointment with a GP for everyone over 75.

labGuaranteed GP appointments within 48 hours, or on the same day for those who need it.  A maximum one-week wait for cancer tests and results by 2020

lib-dEasier access to GPs, expanding evening and weekend opening, and
encouraging phone and Skype appointments

ukipInitiate a pilot programme to put GPs on duty in A&E departments seven days a week.  Fund 8,000 new GP posts, with 1,000 of these designated to work on duty in A&E departments if the pilot programme is successful

greenProvide local community health centres offering a range of services including out-of-hours care, to sit alongside GP surgeries

 

Have they committed to more staff?

ConsYes – 5,000 more GPs to be trained by 2020

 

labYes – the ‘time to care’ fund would pay for 20,000 nurses, 8,000 GPs, 5,000 care workers and 3,000 midwives

lib-dNo specific pledge

 

ukipYes – an extra 20,000 nurses, 8,000 GPs and 3,000 midwives

 

greenYes – 400,000 jobs to be created across health and social care

 

What pledges have the made about mental health?

ConsEnsure that psychological therapists are available in every part of the country. Ensure that women have access to mental health support during and after pregnancy

labIncrease the proportion of the mental health budget spent on children A new right to psychological therapy in the NHS Constitution

lib-dAn extra £500 million a year for mental health services to improve access and reduce waiting times A raft of proposals to improve mental health services, in particular for children, pregnant women and new mothers.

ukipIncrease mental health funding by £170 million a year
End the postcode lottery for psychiatric liaison services in acute hospitals and A&E departments

greenEnsure that spending on mental health rises and that everyone who needs a mental health bed can access one in their local NHS, or within a reasonable distance of their home if specialist care is required.  Eliminate the use of police cells as ‘places of safety’ for children by 2016, and for adults, other than in exceptional circumstances, by the end of the
next parliament

What are they saying about public health?

ConsReview how best to support people with conditions such as obesity or drug or alcohol addictions to remain in or return to work

labSet maximum limits on levels of fat, salt and sugar in food marketed to children.  Set a new national ambition to improve the uptake of physical activity and take targeted action on cheap, high-alcohol drinks.

lib-dRestrict the marketing of junk food to children. Introduce a tax levy on tobacco companies to contribute to the costs of smoking cessation services and implement minimum unit pricing for alcohol

ukipOppose minimum pricing of alcohol and reverse plain packaging legislation for tobacco products.

greenIntroduce a minimum price of 50p per unit for alcoholic drinks
Extend VAT to less healthy foods, including sugar, spending the money raised on subsidising around one-third of the cost of fresh fruit and vegetables.

 Would they repeal the Health and Social Care act?

Cons No.

 

lab

A bill in their first Queen’s Speech to repeal the Act – this would roll back competition, make the NHS the preferred provider of services and restore the Health Secretary’s responsibility to provide a comprehensive health service

lib-dNo, but committed to repealing any parts of the Act that make NHS services ‘vulnerable to forced privatisation’ and ending the role of the Competition and Markets Authority in health

ukipNo

 

greenYes – repeal the Act by introducing an NHS Reinstatement Bill to abolish competition and the commissioner–provider split and restore the Health Secretary’s responsibility to provide a comprehensive health service.

Election Manifestos

You can find all the information above and more policies within the party manifesto’s.  Click on the icons below to visit the party’s manifesto.

ConsConservative

 

labLabour

 

lib-dLiberal Democrats

 

ukipUKIP

 

greenGreen

 

 

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David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband praise HIV prevention drug PrEP

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Story via @pinknews
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The three main political party leaders in the UK have all praised the HIV prevention drug PrEP.

David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband were all asked about their support for PrEP during a Q&A for GT (Gay Times) Magazine. The drug is taken before sex to reduce the risk of getting HIV.

They were asked: “Do you agree with the National AIDS Trust and other charities that PrEP should be made available on the NHS to gay men who need it as soon as possible?”

Prime Minister David Cameron, despite saying he supported the idea of looking into the drug in principle, said the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence would need to make the decision on whether it should be available on the NHS.

He said: “I think it’s fantastic that over the course of the last 30 years, AIDS has gone from being a very serious and fatal disease to one that can be treated – and is now on the cusp of being one that can be prevented. Too many people have lost loved ones and seen friends and families suffer from AIDS, so it’s right that we look very carefully at PrEP. However decisions on individual drug availability are made by the independent National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) and not politicians – so it’d be inappropriate of me to prejudge their decision.”

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, added: “The NHS is looking. We’ve had these studies and tests – like the PROUD Study – which appears to have confirmed the clinical effect of the drug in terms of preventing HIV. But the NHS now, quire rightly, is looking at what this actually means. Would it be clinically prescribed? And to who? And for what periods of time? Is it a one-off prescription or is it an ongoing thing? That’s all being looked into at the moment.

“PrEP sounds like a fantastic medical innovation which can keep people safe from HIV infection, but of course, what we wouldn’t want is for people to take it and risk contracting other illnesses and infection because they practice less protected sex. I don’t think we should, under any circumstances, regard any drug as a sort of wonder drug that suddenly means all risk is removed. But at the end of the day, it’s up to the NHS to look at the studies and work things out as they so publicly need to be worked out.”

And Ed Miliband, the leader of the opposition, also gave his support, saying: “The recent medical evidence that’s come out about PrEP is obviously very positive – it’s a positive step forward. And it could make a real difference. There’s obviously proper clinical processes that we’ve got to go through, with the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), to look at this. I’m obviously sympathetic, and the evidence is incredibly encouraging, but this has got to be led medically.”

The move was welcomed by HIV charity the Terrence Higgins Trust (THT).

Dr Rosemary Gillespie, Chief Executive at THT said: “This cross-party support for PrEP goes to show just how seriously PrEP is being taken as a vital tool in our efforts to reduce HIV transmission in the UK. We need to turn these positive words into action so PrEP can be made available on the NHS for those most at risk as soon as possible.”

A study into the effectiveness of Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) in the UK earlier this year found that the risk of HIV infection was reduced by 86%.

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HIV and the general election – what we should be talking about!

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Press Release via NAM (@aidsmap)

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NAM is an award-winning, community-based organisation, which works from the UK. They deliver reliable and accurate HIV information across the world to HIV-positive people and to the professionals who treat, support and care for them.

The National AIDS Trust and HIV Scotland have joined together to identify the key priorities for the new Parliament which will reduce HIV transmission and improve the lives of people living with HIV across the UK. They are calling on the next UK Government to commit to the following:

1. Retain the protections set out in the Human Rights Act, which acts as a safeguard to ensure people living with HIV can live a meaningful, safe and fulfilled life.

2. Introduce compulsory Sex and Relationships Education for all schools, which is inclusive of young people of all sexual orientations and gender identities and has appropriate sexual health and HIV content – in the first session of the new Parliament.*

3. Make HIV prevention a national public health priority, with effective funding, more varied testing options and access to the full range of prevention information and choices for all who need them.*

4. End HIV stigma in the NHS and social care through the training of all NHS and care staff.*

5. Ensure that people affected by HIV-related sickness or disability have the support they need by committing to the Disability Benefits Consortium’s Five Things You And Your Party Can Do For Disabled People.

Deborah Gold, chief executive of NAT (National AIDS Trust), said: ”HIV has already been talked about during the general election but now we need to focus on how we can decrease the number of people getting HIV in the UK, how we can reduce the shocking levels of stigma and ignorance around the disease, and how we can ensure people living with HIV are treated with respect and dignity.”

George Valiotis, chief executive of HIV Scotland, said: “The responsibility for many of the decisions that affect HIV are devolved in Scotland – sex and relationships education, HIV prevention and the training of NHS and care staff. Despite this, the new UK Government has a key role to play north of the border. Chiefly retaining a commitment to the Human Rights Act and ensuring dependable, fair access to welfare support for those who need it.”

The charities are asking voters to raise these issues when talking to candidates and to share the five HIV asks.  This is part of a cross-sector campaign, with Terrence Higgins Trust joining the call for the new Government to take action on sex and relationships education, HIV prevention for England and a stigma-free NHS. 

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