Free Training: Equality & Film Making

Equality Film

Midlands based videographer and former LASS employee Rhys Davis with 10 years experience of delivering corporate and SME online and training videos, live events, short films and feature length movies is delivering a 10 week training programme in Equality & Film Making.  Rhys has a background in directing, producing, production management and camera operation.

In addition, he has taught videography to adults and children at De Montfort University, Leicester College, Phoenix Square, Regent College London and various schools. He has  two years experience writing for US television and his feature films have received cinema release and worldwide distribution.

Join us for this course and learn about digital media and story telling which will include workshops and discussions.

The course commences from Wednesday, 27th January 2016 and will run weekly for 10 weeks. (Between 10:00am and 1:00pm).  The course is limited to job seekers only.

 

Please contact training@lass.org.uk or call us on 0116 2559995 to book a space.

Mpho Tutu Get’s Hitched to fiancee Prof. Marceline Furth

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Mpho Tutu & Professor Marceline Furth

We are extremely honoured at LASS as Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu is our International Patron.  Jenny Hand (Our CEO) has said

“For LASS to be supported and valued by a man of such international stature is incredible. The Archbishop’s untiring work in human rights, particularly in Southern Africa, and in the field of HIV/AIDS, together with his extraordinary ability to reach across communities, inspired LASS to approach him. His patronage reflects the diverse range of communities LASS works with and gives us a new sense of purpose and energy. We could not have asked for a better way to mark the launch of our 25th Anniversary Year and embolden our service users, staff and volunteers as we face the challenges that lie ahead.”

In the news recently is the marriage of Reverend Mpho Tutu and Professor Marceline Furth.  They married in a private civil ceremony in Amsterdam where van Furth works as a professor of paediatric infectious diseases at Vrije University. the Netherlands.

In a statement, they say the couple will have a wedding ceremony in Cape Town in May this year.

Archbishop Tutu, very well known for his opposition to apartheid, has been a long-standing supporter of LGBT rights in Africa.  He previously described homophobia as a “crime against humanity”, and in 2007, he told BBC Radio 4: “If God, as they say, is homophobic, I wouldn’t worship that God.”

And of course we agree!

 

We Are Recruiting!!

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We Are Recruiting for Two Roles

1) Training Support Outreach Worker (£15,883 – £19,228) 

2) Peer Support Worker* Maternity Leave Cover (£15,883) (6 Month Fixed Term Contract in the first instance)

  • Reports to: Service Delivery Manager
  • Hours: Both roles are full time (37 Hours Per week)
  •  (Fixed Term until the end of March 2016 in the first instance)
  • CLOSING DATE AND TIME: 4th January 2016. 09:00hrs
  • *Due to the occupational requirement of the role of Peer Support Worker, we are only seeking to recruit individuals who have been diagnosed with HIV.

LASS are seeking to recruit a Training, Support & Outreach worker AND a Peer Support Worker.  

Working with people affected by HIV in Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland you will be responsible for providing an efficient, effective and high quality, first point of contact service by phone, email and in person for service users, guests, visitors users of the Michael Wood Centre and at external events. 

The ideal candidates will provide information, advice, guidance, training and support to people living with, affected by and at risk of HIV.

More information is contained in the job description and person specification (below).  To apply, please download, complete and return an application form then email it to Tom Robson (tom@lass.org.uk) or call us on 0116 2559995 to request an application pack.  Please note that CV’s can only be accepted with a completed application form and will not form part of the short listing process. Incomplete applications will not be short-listed.

Please contact Tom Robson on 0116 2559995 for any further information.

 

Russian TV presenter hopes revealing his HIV status will promote tolerance

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Russia is struggling with an HIV epidemic, but you could be excused for thinking that the problem did not exist at all. Sex education and HIV and Aids prevention are not topics for schools, and public service advertising and media coverage is rare. Even many healthcare professionals prefer to avoid the topic.

But while Charlie Sheen-style HIV revelations by celebrities are also unheard of in the country, this week a television presenter, Pavel Lobkov, declared that he was HIV-positive during a live broadcast on TV.

Story via
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Lobkov and activists said they hoped that his statement, broadcast by the small independent channel TV Rain, would jump-start public discussion about the issue, as the number of new HIV cases sky-rocketed.

“It’s not the done thing to talk for real [about HIV], and in Russia it’s a real problem,” Lobkov said. “Maybe after this shock there will be a discussion about what these medicines are, and are there enough doctors specialising in this, is their knowledge adequate to treat HIV infections?”

Lobkov said during the broadcast that he had discovered he had HIV in 2003 while working for the NTV channel. Immediately after he was diagnosed his doctor refused to treat him, telling him he was being excluded from the NTV insurance programme.

Since then Lobkov had had trouble finding treatment for mundane conditions. He said it took him about a year to find a dentist willing to perform an implant procedure after several told him his HIV status would cause complications, despite research showing such concerns to be baseless.

According to Lena Groznova, an activist at the HIV-prevention group Andrey Rylkov Foundation, such ignorance about HIV is common even among healthcare workers, due to the lack of public service information. She said public perception of HIV was outdated and associated the condition with a “quick death”. Widespread disapproval of gay relationships and drug use also played a role.

“Few people from the general population know that a therapy exists that allows people to support their [HIV] status. Even among specialists we run into, police, doctors, have a stigma and fear of HIV people that doesn’t match the threat, which is none,” Groznova said.

Lobkov said several doctors had contacted him in recent days to tell him about HIV-positive patients who did not seek treatment or register for state-provided medicine for fear that their infected status would have a bad impact on their professional and personal lives.

Russia is one of the few countries where the number of HIV cases is rapidly growing. According to the federal Aids centre, at least 986,657 Russians were officially registered as HIV-positive as of 1 November, and the number of new cases had risen by 12% this year.

A consumer oversight agency official in St Petersburg said last month that Russia faced an HIV epidemic. But while the government has increased spending to treat Aids, state policy on fighting HIV has focused on abstinence from sex and drugs, rather than harm reduction programmes.

A message from the Ryazan city government for World Aids Day on Tuesday declared that “even one single sexual contact, even one dose of drugs, can cause HIV infection”.

The state-run Russian Strategic Research Institute said in a report, in October, that rather than adopting western methods, Russia needed to develop an HIV and Aids prevention programme to “reflect real national interests”.

Opioid substitution treatment with substances such as methadone, which aims to help users gradually lose their addiction and is frequently used in the west, is illegal. The Andrey Rylkov Foundation is one of the few groups that hands out clean needles and condoms to at-risk groups such as drug users.

Although the Moscow city Aids prevention centre recently began an advertising campaign around the slogan “Friendship doesn’t transmit HIV”, it was not enough, Groznova said.

Lobkov said: “The government can fight social phobias, it should have information campaigns on tolerance, acceptance. If there will be tolerance, people will go do [HIV] tests, then they will go [to] therapy, and the epidemic will start to die.”

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My HIV… My Rules – The stories of ordinary people living inspirational lives with HIV

Four inspirational British men and women have spoken out about living with HIV for a new film to challenge common misconceptions surrounding HIV.  The documentary My HIV My Rules, released to coincide with World AIDS Day, follows people in the HIV community all leading active and fulfilling lives.

Since being diagnosed, Angelina Namiba, 48, from London has become a mother, Becky Mitchell, 41, from Bristol has retrained as an exercise instructor, Bisi Alimi, 40, also from London has been to meet Barack Obama at the White House and Sean Hourigan, 30, from Bristol, has inspired others with the illness. 

Angelina, who is in her late 40s, was diagnosed as HIV Positive 23 years ago. As a child she was left devastated when her young brother passed away from AIDS, but Angelina was determined not to give in to her own diagnosis and went onto become a mother.

Her daughter, now 16, whom Angelina describes as her ‘biggest achievement’, is HIV negative.

‘One of my biggest achievements was being able to have my daughter after an HIV diagnosis,’ said Angelina on the documentary. ‘I thought that it was never going to be possible for me to have a child because of what I’d seen of HIV was just many people dying.  ‘But you can live a long time with HIV. It’s just a matter of taking up the interventions that are available to us.’

She added: ‘Having my daughter has been very key because it’s given me another purpose in life.’

Looking to the future, Angelina plans to set up an old age home for people with HIV in Brighton and also aspires to continue to give her daughter a good upbringing.  ‘I just want to be happy,’ she added.   ‘I don’t let HIV define me. It’s a very tiny virus that has decided to invade my body so it’s going to live by my rules.’

Also inspired to help others with the virus since his diagnosis two and a half years ago is Sean, who works for homeless charity Shelter and volunteers with HIV charity the Brigstowe Project.

‘I want to make sure that I’m healthy enough that I can go off visiting other places – showing people what it’s like to be a healthy person living with HIV and inspire other people to do the same,’ he explained.  He also aspires to travel and live life to the full despite his diagnosis.

‘Now that my condition is stable, I’m on medication, I’m undetectable I can now think about maybe going off to South America, to Africa, and experiencing countries I haven’t been to yet,’ he said.  ‘Diagnosis has made me more driven. It’s made me think, “If you want to go out and do something you have to go out and do it now”.

Becky, was diagnosed three years ago but has since upped her fitness levels and is now an exercise instructor alongside her day job at the environment agency.  Despite always loving exercise, Becky admits that prior to her diagnosis she never imagined she would end up leading the class.

Describing her condition, she said: ‘HIV is life changing, but it’s not life limiting. I’m the same woman I was before my diagnosis, maybe stronger and wiser.  I love life I always have so, I wasn’t going to let this get in the way. It’s a personal choice at the end of the day, you can either let it stop you or you can let it drive you forward.  ‘Exercise was and still is my salvation.  I like to run and I like to cycle. I like to find a positive way to deal with it, which will not only help me physically be strong but will help my mental strength as well.’

She also says she is more aware of her health than ever before: ‘It makes you think of long-term health. I eat well and I don’t drink,’ she explained.

But despite wanting to inspire others with HIV, Becky also feels it’s important that people understand the reality of managing the virus.

‘I think there’s a lot of complacency about living with HIV. People think if I take one pill a day it’s a bit more complicated.  ‘If I look after myself as well as I can. I do whatever I can, to prevent anything else happening.’

Next year Becky plans to tackle the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, and will soon start training for the expedition.  ‘I love life – I always have – so I wasn’t going to let this get in the way,’ she said.  ‘I’ve decided that HIV lives with me because I was here first. It’s a personal choice at the end of the day. You can let it stop you or it can drive you forward.’

Social justice activist, academic and public speaker, Bisi, has achieved great things in the area of HIV awareness in the 11 years since his diagnosis.  So much so that last year he was picked by the White House as one of the game changers in the field and was invited to meet Barack Obama.

‘Having that boy from the slum being invited to the White House…it was just so surreal,’ said Bisi, who grew up in Nigeria.

Bisi, who plans to get married next year, is full of hope for his future. ‘I’d like to have a wonderful family and finish my doctorate,’ he said. He also hopes for his charitable foundation to affect change in Nigeria. ‘At the back of my head is also my dream to be the first black gay MP in the UK.’

He adds: ‘I feel very confident that I can live for a very long time with the virus.  ‘I am living proof – honestly –  you can live a fabulous life positively and living with HIV. ‘All you have to do is stay positive, think positive, act positive, take your medication, take care of yourself. Discover what makes you happy and go for it. Don’t let HIV reduce you.’

Bisi says he is also much more conscious of his health and regularly checks his cholesterol, liver, heart rate.  ‘I look at all my other friends who are negative who haven’t been to a doctor for five, years. I go every six momths.  ‘As we get older there will be challenges, but preparing our bodies for old age now whilst we have control of it will help us live to a very healthy old age.’

Also on the documentary was Dr Alan Winston, consultant physician in HIV and genitourinary medicine at St. Mary’s Hospital, London, who explained that looking at care beyond the virus itself can help prolong healthy life.

He said: ‘Having a treatable problem like HIV should not stop you from achieving all your goals in life.’  View the film online and join in the conversation on Twitter under the hashtag #myhivmyrules

Take a look at the trailer (Above) or to see the full 13 minute feature, visit Liquid Productions for more.

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A Child, growing up with HIV: Clinics with codenames and secrets from schoolfriends

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For many years Daniel was told that he had bugs in his blood and needed tablets and regular blood tests to control them. At 11, his HIV diagnosis was revealed – and he was told to keep it a secret
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One of Danny Germain’s most treasured memories is being 5 years old, cuddled up on the sofa with his mother Millie, watching a documentary about polar bears.  Millie Germain, a New Yorker of Puerto Rican heritage, passed away the next day.  She was HIV+ and died of AIDS-related complications.

Millie had met Danny’s father, Richard, when he was working in New York.  He fell in love with this bright, vibrant Latino girl, they were married, and soon after she found she was pregnant with their much-wanted first child.

It was during routine pregnancy blood tests that an anomaly was found and further investigations revealed that Millie had HIV. Richard tested negative. She had probably contracted it from a previous long-term boyfriend. It was 1992 and the medical world was still learning about the virus.

Millie and Danny as a child

Millie and Danny as a child

When Daniel was born there was a 1 in 6 chance he would also be HIV+ but his parents would not know that he had also contracted the virus until he was 18 months old. Millie, wracked with guilt for passing on the virus to her son, was becoming progressively weaker.  By this time the family were living back in Richard’s home town in rural Suffolk and the family struggled to manage the care needs of a feisty toddler with his mother’s deteriorating health – all the while keeping the truth behind Millie’s frequent hospitalisations a secret.

During the early nineties, the stigma around HIV/AIDS was as strong as ever, it was seen as a disease of promiscuity, drug use and the gay community. After Millie passed away Richard had to protect his little boy and carry the burden of keeping his diagnosis a secret.  Even the hospital clinic had a code name so that it could not be identified, and the doctors and nurses who chose to work there were considered exceptionally brave by their colleagues.

For many years Richard explained to Daniel that he had bugs in his blood and needed tablets and regular blood tests to control them. At the age of 11, he was told that these ‘bugs’ were in fact the HIV virus.  He was also told not to tell anyone.

In the intervening years Richard met Marion, who became a supportive stepmother to Danny.  Richard and Marion had two daughters, Danny’s sisters, and with the help of medical advances Danny’s daily cocktail of drugs reduced the virus in his bloodstream to undetectable levels.

From the moment he learned that he was HIV+, Danny wanted to tell others – but he knew he had to keep his status secret to protect himself from the prejudice that surrounded the disease.  For him the burden was not the disease itself – he was leading a full life, going to school, skiing, scuba diving, and blood tests and daily medication seemed minor inconveniences in the grand scheme of things – but the stigma attached to it.

On graduating from university, Danny began a career as a freelance photographer and film maker, and had become frustrated at living with the secret any longer. He knew from all those clinics he attended as a child that there were lots of other young people like him who were also carrying with them a similar burden of secrecy.

And so, on the anniversary of his mother’s death, he publicly announced his HIV status in a film project titled 27.11.15. He visited aunts and cousins, university friends and extended family members and told them his secret in person. With his father and Marion at his side, he told his teenage sisters. Finally, he went back to speak to the doctors and nurses who had first treated him as a child, and the medical staff who had cared for his mother.

What is obvious in Danny’s story is the love, hope and indeed the normality possible after a diagnosis of HIV. Put simply, it is simply unacceptable that surrounding prejudices are now more of an issue to sufferers than the condition itself. In 2015, we have a responsibility to address this shocking truth.

Danny and Marion

Danny and Marion

 

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People living with HIV still face enormous stigma and hate

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Paige Rawl was 12 years old when she told her best friend that she has HIV. She’s had the virus since birth — her mother unknowingly contracted it from her father, who eventually left the family.

“I didn’t really fully understand what exactly I was telling my friend at the time,” Rawl, now a college student, told me. “I didn’t really understand what having this disease could mean until after I started getting the reactions from other people.”

Story via Vox

Those reactions were devastating. Paige’s admission quickly spread through her Indianapolis middle school. Rawl’s schoolmates — even her friends — responded by mocking and ostracizing her. They refused to use the water fountain after her — afraid they’d get the disease, too. She was beat up and called names. Rawl went to the school counselor for help. Her advice to Rawl? Tell her friends that she didn’t have HIV after all.

More than one in three Americans holds at least one wrong belief about HIV transmissions

“For me, that was bad,” Rawl said. “This was someone I thought I could go to.”

The last straw came when a soccer coach at the school asked Rawl about her condition in front of the entire team.

“My mom confronted my coach,” Rawl said. “The coach made a joke to my mom that the team could use my HIV status to our advantage, because the players on the other team would be scared to touch me, and I could score goals.”

Rawl withdrew from school and was homeschooled until college.

“It was really hard, because I was so involved. I did show choir, soccer, and all that,” she said. “So homeschooling for me was really hard, but it was something I had to do because the bullying got so bad.”

Misconceptions about HIV remain

Rawl’s experiences aren’t unique — many of the 1.2 million people living with HIV in America face similar cruelty and misunderstanding from their communities. I wanted to learn more about their experiences, so in 2014, I contacted advocacy groups to connect with people living with the disease. I interviewed eight HIV-positive people, with a range of ages, sexual orientations, races, and backgrounds. These interviews, of course, don’t represent everyone living with HIV or AIDS. But they provide a glimpse into just how harmful the persistent misconceptions around the disease can be, even for some of the most optimistic people living with HIV.

There was a consistent theme in these interviews. After people were diagnosed, they quickly learned that proper medication can make the disease less deadly and more difficult to transmit. Indeed, HIV isn’t the death sentence it was in the 1980s and early 1990s. The age-adjusted death rate among people diagnosed with HIV and AIDS dropped by 93 percent between 1987 and 2010, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A large part of that, the CDC explains, is attributable to the development of highly effective antiretroviral medication.

The big problem for these HIV-positive people instead came through the stigma attached to the disease. Three decades after the rise of HIV terrorized the world, many misunderstandings attached to the disease remain — from misconceptions about whom it affects to confusion about how it’s actually transmitted.

More than one in three Americans, a Kaiser Family Foundation survey found, hold at least one wrong belief about HIV transmissions. About 27 percent don’t know it can’t be spread by sharing a drinking glass, 17 percent don’t know it can’t be transmitted by touching a toilet seat, and 11 percent don’t know it can’t be caught by swimming in a pool with someone who is HIV positive.

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“When people see me, they’re often surprised when I tell them I have HIV,” said Danny Harris, from Little Rock, Arkansas. “You can tell they’re taken aback, because we still live in a state here that thinks you can get it from kissing someone or sitting on a toilet seat.”

These misunderstandings could affect public health

The stigma surrounding HIV makes life more challenging for people with the disease. The people I interviewed described being afraid to tell their families about their status, and concerns about how the disease affects their friendships and romantic relationships. The stigma also poses public health risks: Advocates and researchers are concerned that these misunderstandings could cause the disease to spread further.

“There’s issues around stigma and homophobia,” said Amy Lansky, an HIV researcher at the CDC. “That might deter some young men from seeking HIV prevention services and testing.”

A 2009 survey found that one in three people living with HIV still experiences high levels of discrimination due to the disease. Worse, those reporting the highest levels of stigma also report poor access to medical care. The stigma, in other words, correlates with less prevention and care for HIV.

The stigma also appears to make doctors wary of recommending HIV testing. In a 2011survey, black doctors, who are more active in black communities in which HIV is more prevalent, said three of five barriers to offering routine testing for HIV are related to social stigma. Physicians said they’re particularly concerned that patients may perceive a test recommendation as accusatory or judgmental.

“Living in Arkansas, being HIV positive communicates a lot of things. It communicates that he’s gay, he’s nasty, and he’s having random sex with all kinds of different people.”This problem can extend further, after someone is tested for HIV. Jimmy Walker, from Little Rock, said his doctor in Atlanta, where he lived at the time, offered little support after he was diagnosed.

“The doctor came that morning and said he had run a full gamut of tests to see if I contracted any kinds of diseases, and he told me all of those came back fine — but my HIV test came back positive,” Walker said. “Then he walked out of the room and left me there.”

Several of the people I interviewed also said that their doctors didn’t give them adequate information after they were diagnosed. They instead resorted to friends, peers, and the internet. For some of the subjects, talking about HIV is so stigmatized — even treated as a joke — that people can’t discuss where to get help.

Tommy Luckett, from Little Rock, said she wasn’t aware of the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program, a federal program that helps low-income people obtain antiretroviral medication, until she chatted with a Tennessee-based friend online.

“I felt fear, like I was going to die,” she said. “I didn’t know what I would be able to do, because I knew that I didn’t have the money to pay for any medication. I had already heard about how expensive the medicines were.”

Luckett’s friend suggested that if HIV/AIDS support services exist in Tennessee, they surely exist in Arkansas as well. That led Luckett to the Ryan White Program in Arkansas, which helped pay for her treatments from then on. But without that one friend online, Luckett could have been left helpless — largely because the mere discussion of HIV can be so taboo.

Advocates and officials work to fight the stigma

The discrimination people with HIV face is compounded by a troubling reality: More and more young gay and bisexual men are contracting HIV.

A 2014 CDC study found that among all groups, annual HIV diagnoses between 2001 and 2011 increased the most among 13- to 24-year-old boys and men who have sex with men. Previous CDC studies also found a 22 percent increase in new annual HIV infections between 2008 and 2010 among the same group, and youth ages 13 to 24 accounted for more than one in four new HIV infections in the US in 2010.

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For advocates, part of tackling this alarming trend is dismantling the stigma attached to HIV.

Part of that is undoing anti-gay attitudes attached to the disease, which came about because HIV is more common among gay and bisexual communities. These attitudes can make it more difficult for gay and bisexual men with the disease to get proper care. A 2011 review of the research from the National Center of HIV found gay and bisexual men can delay getting treatment because they’re uncomfortable with their sexuality and are cautious of exposing themselves to any potential discrimination from health care providers.

Danny Harris confronted these attitudes in Little Rock. “Living in Arkansas, being HIV-positive communicates a lot of things,” he said. “It communicates that he’s gay, he’s nasty, and he’s having random sex with all kinds of different people.”

Another part of the stigma is that people only get HIV due to careless behavior and somehow deserve the disease. But Rawl has lived with HIV since birth. One of the men I interviewed was raped and contracted the disease. Many of the people I talked to were monogamous at the time they caught HIV, but their partners were either disloyal or didn’t know they were HIV-positive.

By breaking down these barriers, advocates and officials hope to open up discussion about HIV without the stigma attached to it. That could open more people to the idea that they might have the disease and should get tested for it, which can be a major hurdle — particularly for younger populations. A 2012 CDC survey of high school students found nearly 60 percent of young people with HIV are unaware of their infection, which obviously makes them much less likely to take proper medical precautions that would make the disease less transmittable and deadly.

Other times advocates take on the idea that the disease is still as fatal as it once was, which might scare people away from talking about the disease or thinking that they could have it. Harris travels across Arkansas to help people living with HIV. At first, he struggled about whether he should come out as HIV-positive. “After a while, I began to think it through and decided it was better that it be known,” he said. “I could demonstrate with my own testimony and my own life that HIV doesn’t win unless you give it the victory.”

Advocates and officials hope to open up discussion about HIV without the stigma attached to itTo some degree, it seems this advocacy work has succeeded since the 1990s. The CDC’s Lansky points out that overall diagnoses and infections are down by one-third between 2001 and 2011, but most of those improvements were among injection drug users and heterosexual men and women. She said it’s now a matter of doubling down on efforts and building on progress made over the past few decades, particularly by targeting seriously at-risk groups like young, black, gay, and bisexual men.

For the CDC and advocacy groups, breaking the stigma and starting a more open conversation are the first steps. Then people can be guided to testing, told about drugs like Truvada that help prevent the spread of infections, get educated on the importance of other protection like condoms, and put on medication that reduces HIV viral loads and, as a result, reduces the disease’s deadliness and ability to spread.

Knowing first-hand how bad the misconceptions about HIV can get, Rawl has made it her life’s calling to do the advocacy work, dissolve those stigmas, and start honest conversations about the disease. She travels the country to tell her story and what she’s overcome, and she hopes her memoir, Positive, which came out in August 2014, will help spread her story further. The education effort can get personal at times: Rawl sometimes has to convince parents of boyfriends that the disease isn’t as dangerous as it used to be.

“I think this generation, our parents, grew up when the disease came out and scared people,” she said. “So they have a lot of that on the back of their minds, and they need more education on what it’s like now.”

It doesn’t stop here, read more including 8 interviews by clicking here: http://www.vox.com/2014/8/10/5956765/this-is-what-its-like-to-have-hiv-in-2014
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