Monthly Archives: October 2013

What’s Going On in November at LASS?

During November, we’ll be building up our events and activities leading towards World AIDS day on 1st December.

The theme for World AIDS Day this year is “Getting to Zero – zero new HIV infections; zero discrimination; zero AIDS related deaths.’

Our World AIDS day campaign has the focus for people to be positive about their HIV status. Once we all know and take responsibility for our HIV status, negative or positive, there will be a significant reduction in new HIV infections  and we will get closer to the goal – Getting to zero.

The UNAIDS strategy aims to advance global progress in achieving country set targets for universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support and to halt and reverse the spread of HIV and contribute to the achievement of the Millennium Development goals by 2015.  You can learn more about the strategy from this link.

We are promoting HIV testing, in particular during the Health Protection England National HIV Testing week which is 22nd to 29th November.  Our HIV testing service will be available at a range of outreach settings during this week including University of Leicester, some clubs and bars.

You can contact us if you would like a World AIDS day information pack and red ribbons, please call us on 0116 2559995 or email our sexual health team:

Would you like to get involved? – Here’s what we’re doing…

World AIDS day Fashion design competition

Entrants can design any piece of clothing to promote World AIDS day or Chlamydia Testing. The top design for each promotion will receive a prize of £50.  For more information, please contact Denese (

Training: HIV and Belief
Friday 1st November: 10:30am – 1:00pm

Objective: The need for more sessions to discuss HIV and Belief was identified at a workshop in February 2013.   This session will further explore the issues linking HIV & Belief, considering perceptions and experiences of stigma. The session will look at ways of empowering ourselves to understand and challenge HIV & HIV related stigma in the context of different beliefs and faith influences.

Outcomes: Participants will be knowledgeable on the following

  • The importance of living with HIV in the community according to my faith and beliefs without stigma
  • The impact of cultural perspectives and beliefs on HIV/AIDS
  • Stigma
  • The power of medical intervention and prayer
  • The importance of supportive pastoral assistance and knowledge
  • The role of faith and belief in life, include the importance of the pastor/priest / faith leader

Please book using the LASS training booking form (link) and email to

Community News Café @ LASS Café

Wednesday 6th November: 10.30 – 11.30

Join us for coffee at Regent Road, Leicester (map) as we chat about World AIDS day and what does it mean to you?

 Health Awareness event at LASS

25th November: 11am – 3pm

Information about HIV, Diabetes, healthy hearts, TB and healthy living.

Free testing for Blood glucose, blood pressure, BMI, HIV.

HIV awareness and testing at University of Leicester Students Union

26th November: 11 – 3pm


LASS @ The Movies

26 – 29th November: various times

A selection of HIV related films will be shown at LASS each day.  We’ll show See the Films poster for more details.

Queen Tribute

29th November: 7.30 pm

Gary Mullen and the Works are performing a Queen Tribute concert at De Montfort Hall, Leicester. We will be there, raising awareness about HIV and World AIDS day. You can get your red ribbon from our stall.

Craft Fair 

30th November: 11am – 3pm

LASS Craft Fair at The Central Baptist Church, Charles Street Leicester. Tables are £13 each if you want to come along and sell your crafts.

Women’s Event

30th November: 4pm – 7pm

Empowering Women event at Central Baptist Church, Charles Street Leicester – with a selection of speakers. Free entry

 WORLD AIDS DAY – 1st December

World AIDS Day Music Extravaganza at the Shed

From 4pm to 10pm.

The event starts with the judging of the World AIDS day fashion design competition – remember there is a £50 prize for the first prize.

The music line up includes The Harridons, Tony Jones, Small Blue Dot, LASS’s own Status Unknown, Multimorph, George Sandersun, Hot Lixx, Kenny Wilson, Rosa Leigh, Ian Derbyshire Band, Agonal Trace, Ash Mammal.

Tickets £3 advance purchase (from LASS or The Shed, Yeoman Street) or £5 on the door.

We are setting up a range of events and activities with groups and communities across the city and county.  If you would like us to visit for an event or session let us know.

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Should the “New” Russian HIV Strain Cause Concern?


There has been a lot of play in the press recently about a “new and more virulent strain of HIV” (Daily Mail, Oct. 17) that appears to be spreading quickly in parts of Russia and Central Asia.

According to the epidemiological reports, this new recombinant form of HIV-1 — called 02_AG/A — is spreading at a faster rate than the dominant subtype, HIV-1 A. Moreover, the prevalence rate in some parts of Siberia have spiked by as much as 700% in the past five years, with nearly one out of every 180 persons infected.

Of these, 50% can be attributed to 02_AG/A.

What’s causing the most concern among global health officials is the fact that Eastern Europe and Central Asia are the two areas in the world where HIV infections are actively increasing.

The question is whether this “new” HIV strain is the cause of the increase. Is it as virulent as some are claiming, or are there other factors playing a key role (e.g., social, behavioral)?

Looking at the epidemic up-close, injection drug users and their sexual partners still remain the major drivers for the epidemic in the majority of Russian regions. A steady drug trade from Central Asia through the western borders of Russia — combined with increases in migratory labor and international travel — have likely contributed to the genetic diversity in the regional HIV pool.  Over time, this gave rise a recombinant form of HIV that appears to be more “fit” than other forms of HIV, allowing it to predominate.

But does this, in and of itself, mean that 02_AG/A is a “meaner, scarier” version of HIV, able to infect more easily than other HIV strains?

In truth, the fact that it has spread so quickly, taking a leading position in some regions, does warrant concern. One study conducted by the New York University School of Medicine suggests that 02_AG/A is able to replicate nearly 1.5 times faster than parental subtype A. Simply put, the replication rate may allow the virus to “build traction” more quickly in an effected host, far in advance of an immune response.

But what all of this doesn’t suggest is that 02-AG/A is any more or less deadly than other forms of HIV. In fact, a four-year study by the University of Montepelier in France showed that the 02_AG strain (which predominates in Cameroon and West-Central Africa) does not differ from other forms of HIV in the region, either in terms of survival, disease progression, or CD4 cell decline.

However, none of this can downplay the fact that, unless Russian health authorities act now, the spread of 02_AG/A may thwart any effort to stave the alarming HIV infection rates in the region… or the spread the virus to other regions and continents.

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Edinburgh council reject police condom ban recommendations

Condoms are freely available at LASS and many other sexual health agencies.

Condoms are freely available at LASS and many other sexual health agencies.

FOUR saunas have had their licences rejected, but seven others have been given permission to continue operating.

Police Scotland failed to convince Councillors that a condition that “no items of a sexual nature” should be allowed on the premises should be imposed.

There were 13 sauna applications to be heard, five in public and eight in private.

The initial five, heard in public, were all approved. They included Carol’s Sauna, London Street Sauna, Ambassador Sauna, No Eighteen and Steamworks.

The remaining eight were to be heard in private because of concerns about subjunctive.

Representatives of two, Scorpio and New Town Sauna, said they had gained approval as they left the council meeting last night.

Speaking after the meeting, convener of the licensing sub- committee, Councillor Gavin Barrie, said: “The committee has carefully reviewed all the information presented, including information from any objectors and reports from Police Scotland. Each application was considered on its individual merits and of the 13 public entertainment licences considered today, seven have been renewed.”

Among the saunas that had their licence applications rejected last night were Blair Street, New Gentle Touch, Paradise and Dundas Street, though the decisions could be appealed. Two other decisions were deferred.

Six establishments were raided by Police Scotland in July, and seven people were charged in relation to sex for sale on the premises. The new national force is perceived to be taking a stronger line than the former Lothian and Borders Police. Previously, police and councillors appeared to turn a blind eye to prostitution in saunas, as it was seen as safer than on the street.

In relation to Carol’s Sauna, police wrote about an inspection in June: “Officers observed that the females working in the premises were scantily clad, massage rooms were equipped as bedrooms, no purpose-built massage tables were apparent on the premises and used condoms were found in the bins in two of the bedrooms.”

In relation to London Street Sauna, police said “massage rooms were equipped as bedrooms with mirrored ceilings and walls” and “pornographic magazines were on display in the reception area”.

However, councillors on the licensing sub-committee found some of the police’s conditions to be unworkable and vague. The only additional conditions imposed, after being requested by police, were an alcohol ban and requirement that the sauna be in good working order.

The rest were either considered to be already in place, or rejected, including the ban on “items of a sexual nature”. This has been widely welcomed.

A spokeswoman for Scotpep, which supports sex workers, said: “Banning condoms would not have been safe. It would have pushed safe sex messages back 30 years.”

The Church of Scotland praised the council for rejecting the police condition.

The Rev Dr Robin Hill, convener of the church’s HIV programme, said: “While issues of criminality need to be considered very seriously in licensing processes, it would be folly to ignore the risks associated with a possible increase in the incidence of unprotected sex in Edinburgh’s saunas.”

MSP Margo MacDonald welcomed the news that two saunas so far had been allowed to stay in business.

She said: “I cannot congratulate the council enough for finally standing up. This new wave of police and their zero tolerance policy is wrong.”

Earlier, Police Scotland denied its attempt to ban “items of a sexual nature” would include condoms.

Superintendent Matt Richards said: “Police Scotland submitted a number of written recommendations for their consideration.”

He added: “At no point do the recommendations make reference to the banning of condoms.”

Story via The Scotsman

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Black History Month 2013 – Interview with LASS’s very own, Rachael Ng’andwe


Rachael N’Gandwe receiving her NIACE Certificate

As part of NIACE’s blog series to mark Black History Month, Rachael Ng’andwe – a 2013 Adult Learners’ Week award winner – is sharing her story. Rachael is a Women’s Project Coordinator atLeicestershire AIDS Support Services, working with HIV positive women to educate and empower them through training and other opportunities.

Tell me a bit about yourself and early years.

I was born in Lusaka, Zambia. I grew up there and attended primary school through to college, where I studied Travel and Tourism. I qualified as a travel consultant, which is what I did for a living in Zambia before I came to the UK. Since coming to England in 1997 I haven’t been back.  It’s been difficult being away- part of it has been immigration and it was not possible until a couple of years ago.

What are you doing now?

I’m a single mum to an 8 year old beautiful daughter. Her dad passed away in 2009 and I have been on my own raising her as a single parent, which takes up a lot of my time as I‘m very hands on. I’m also currently enrolled in a Level 2 Diploma in Health and Social Care Course – which started September 2013.

What inspired you to get involved in learning and education?

Originally, I gave my time up for volunteering as I wasn’t allowed to work due to my immigration status. Through that, I got involved in the training opportunities available for volunteers.

My love for working with people still carried on and having left my job where I did IT with the travel consultancy job, but I didn’t get a chance to practice since I moved here. I knew I needed to do something, so with the help of the Lass the voluntary organisation I was attached with I took the ICT Level 2 and passed.

I then took every opportunity that came along, instead of being idle at home. I just got lost in studying while volunteering and this gave me a break from other personal problems.

I was also involved in family learning classes at my daughter’s school. I did maths Level 1 and went on to do Level 2 with Leicester College. I knew that I needed to improve my maths to be able to help my daughter with her homework.

Were you faced with any barriers and if so, how did you overcome them?

I had barriers getting into mainstream education because I didn’t have the right immigration status.  Although being a voluntary sector, Leicestershire AIDS Support Services (LASS) provided me with the opportunity to learn and created a platform for me to use my learning. Even after obtaining my leave to remain in the United Kingdom, getting into university has not been easy because of the conditions on my status. I like many others whom I have come across, still struggle to meet up with financial demands to get into higher education. Passion is there but the reality always knocks us down and leaves us with the option to only do short college courses.

What was particularly helpful in supporting you to progress and achieve?

The management at LASS, in particular the CEO Jenny Hand and my line manager Juliet kisob. They have been there with me pushing me to achieve. They saw the potential which I did not see in myself to go for bigger things –they were my backbone and all that I had. I have close friends who have supported me in my journey to achieve better for me and my daughter.

What impact has winning an Adult Learners’ Week this year had on you?

It’s had a huge impact on me, especially with the women I work with. They see me in that position from the picture on my desk and they ask me questions like “How do I get onto a course? How can I get such an opportunity?” I see a change in them and they want to do better for themselves.

My daughter is also very proud of me. She asked me, “Mummy did you graduate?”

With significant strides in race equality over the last 30 years, what do you think the barriers for BAME learners are today?

It depends on where you go, but language is still a barrier when it comes to learning. If you don’t have English how will you understand the person who is teaching you? Without 1:1 support learning is very hard for people whose first language is not English.

It’s the same for children – language is a problem and they need extra support to achieve in class.

Refugees and asylum seekers also face barriers as there is stigma attached to them. I experience this myself – people look down on you because you apply to stay in the country on these grounds. They don’t see your potential – they only see the status so you always have to challenge and speak out or get taken for granted.

I also feel that the welfare cuts have hit people in a big way – women didn’t need to work in the same way before, but the cuts will mean everyone has to work and no more stay-at-home mums.

For some it will be very hard especially if they have not worked before. Where do they start and who is there to support them? Until there are some changes in the way the system works, this will remain a problem in our society.

I still believe the Equality Act has created more opportunities for BAME background. People just need to be empowered to challenge inequality when things are not right.

We know that there are significant differences between particular groups and sub-groups of minority ethnic learners. What can practitioners and providers do to support them?

Black learners sometimes have to do extra to get the same credit as other learners. The expectation from black learners is higher because their proficiency levels are not recognised – this is a barrier because they have to achieve exceptionally high grades in order to compete on the same market level. There will always be a gap in achievement between ethnic groups until they change the criteria in which enrolment and provision of educational materials is awarded to individuals regardless of ethnic back ground.

What would you like to see changing over the next 30 years for BAME learners and what role do you want to play in that?

Provision of a wide range of courses for different skills to match the employment requirements should be offered to BAME on quota basis. We should learn from what skills people are bringing into the country and increase the variety. I also think people should be afforded a future based on their capability – not on their status. Too many highly qualified people come to this country and end up stacking boxes in factories.

Organisations such as accounting firms that offer different routes into tertiary education such as articles should open this route to all individuals especially the BAME communities. Apprentiship courses should be offered to BAME communities at level 5 and 6 for those exiting secondary school educations.

How do you see your role as a BAME learner and the impact this may have on BAME learners, aspiring leaders and the wider community?

First and foremost – for single mums; be a role model giving hope to achieve anything you want to achieve. I want to be an advocate for under achievers by signposting them to relevant agencies and inspiring them to have a sense of self belief. My role as a BAME learner should inspire aspiring leaders and the wider community to engage in learning regardless of age, gender and ethnicity.

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Police ask for condom ban in Edinburgh saunas

You don't see police officers working without protection do you?

You don’t see police officers working without protection do you?

Police Scotland has written to Edinburgh City Council arguing that if it grants licences for five saunas it should be on condition that no items of a sexual nature are allowed on the premises.

Sex workers’ charity Scot-pep has condemned the police proposal saying it could lead to an HIV epidemic.  A council decision on new licence rules could end Edinburgh’s more tolerant attitude to the sex trade.

Campaigners for a safer sex trade have said that any ban on condoms would not stop people having sex but it would result in unprotected sex and higher rates of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections.

Earlier this year, six other saunas had their licences suspended following raids across Edinburgh.

Nadine Stott, a board member of the charity Scot-Pep, which campaigns for the rights of sex workers, said: “This goes against all basic common sense. It also places Scotland really out of step with the rest of the world.

“The World Health Organisation (WHO) just last week released guidelines on sex workers and HIV that specifically stated where countries use condoms as evidence of sex work that should be stopped immediately.”

She added: “We are really shocked that, in private, the police have been quite clear to us. They said that the policy (on saunas) wasn’t changing.

“We think this highlights how inappropriate the police are as a regulatory body of sex workers in a criminal context.”

A Police Scotland spokesman said: “Police Scotland recently provided reports to the Council Regulatory Committee in respect of a number of public entertainment licence renewals.

“In cases where there was evidence of criminality or premises operating out-with the conditions of their licence, objections were made to those licences being renewed.

“Police Scotland will continue to work with partners to inspect and report on licensed premises operating within Edinburgh in order to keep people safe.

“Whenever criminal activity, or licensing contraventions are detected within these venues, officers will respond appropriately and report all offences to the relevant authority.”

Prof Alison McCallum, NHS Lothian’s director of public health, said: “For many years, we have provided sexual health services, mental health services, hepatitis immunisations and drug and alcohol support in accessible clinics for sex workers.

“Over the last year this has involved more than 300 consultations with women.

“We promote safe sex and awareness of infections amongst sex workers.

“Condom use is always advised and condoms are made freely available.”

Deborah Jack, chief executive of National AIDS Trust, said: “Making condoms a reason to lose a sauna licence will not stop sex, it will stop safer sex and put at risk often very vulnerable people.

“Edinburgh led the way in the early years of HIV in harm reduction, pioneering clean needle programmes in the UK for people who use drugs and halting the spread of HIV in that community.

“We urge the city now to remember that proud heritage and not penalise condom use.

“It would be the worst sort of public health own goal.”

Story from the BBC

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Here I Am Campaign


The Here I Am campaign is a global call on world leaders to save millions of lives by supporting a fully funded Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. Here I Am brings the voices of people that are directly affected by AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria into dialogue about decisions that affect their lives and lives of millions of others in their countries. Through video testimonies from all over the world, campaign ambassador advocacy, online actions and on-the-ground mobilizations, the Here I Am campaign is building collective power to end three of the world’s most deadly diseases.

We believe that through appropriate levels of investments now, we have an opportunity to defeat HIV, tuberculosis and malaria within our lifetime, and to decrease costs over time if we recommit and fully fund the Global Fund. This requires a US$15 billion investment and ongoing resource mobilisation aimed at engaging new donors and innovative financing mechanisms.

We call on all donors and implementing countries:

  • Recommit to the goals of increased strategic investments and scaling up of treatment, prevention, care and support programmes for people living with and affected by HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.
  • Fully fund the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria by collectively committing at least US$15 billion in this replenishment year in new contributions for 2014-2016.
  • Recommit to increased domestic investments targets for health and increased total health expenditure per capita in all countries affected by HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.

In 2012 nearly 2000 people signed the first petition that asked donors to increase their 2013 contributions and to fully replenish the Global Fund.

As we get closer to the pledging conference late this year, this is a crucial moment to show donors how much we need the Global Fund and to persuade them to make a strong commitment to fight HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.

This new call to action will be presented directly to the decision-makers at the Global Fund’s 30th board meeting in November.


Please sign and help us present a strong statement at the meeting by sharing this petition with your networks and on social media.

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Belgium launches robust national HIV plan


UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé expressed his gratitude for Queen Mathilde’s unprecedented commitment to the global AIDS response.

Belgium has taken a substantial step forward in its AIDS response this week with the launch of its first and much-anticipated National Strategic Plan on HIV. The plan was endorsed at the very highest level, with Queen Mathilde joining a number of top-ranking Belgian ministers and UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé to oversee the 15 October launch.

The 2014-2019 strategic plan has three central pillars:  HIV prevention; testing and treatment; and care and support. It addresses a context in which more than a thousand new HIV infections are being reported each year. The plan prioritizes most affected populations including men who have sex with men and migrant workers. Despite relatively low numbers of people living with HIV in Belgium—the AIDS epidemic remains a concern as the rate of new HIV infections has not declined in recent years.

Far-reaching, multi-year and multi-sectoral, the plan was developed through a highly consultative process with the engagement of a range of actors including people living with HIV, key populations, medical professionals, community activists and national authorities. UNAIDS was also involved in its development.

At the launch Mr Sidibé commended Belgium’s efforts in its commitment to the AIDS response and noted that the pioneering plan represented an ambitious model for other European countries, especially with its focus on key populations.

“This is an example of how a successful AIDS Plan should be designed—centred around people focused on preventing new HIV infections and comprehensive access to a full package of HIV services, particularly for the most vulnerable in society,” said Mr Sidibé. “I’m sure that once fully implemented the plan will enable Belgium to push its epidemic into rapid decline.”

Following the launch Mr Sidibé had further discussions with Laurette Onkelinx Vice-Prime Minister of Belgium and the federal government’s Minister of Social Affairs and Public Health. During the meeting they discussed how best to address the challenges of ensuring the right to health for men who have sex with men, as well as migrant workers and refugees. Ms Onkelinx stressed Belgium’s political commitment to supporting vulnerable populations.

“We have the responsibility for this plan to be more than just a great achievement – it should be a starting point,” said Ms Onkelinx. “A starting point for political action we will lead all together, by joining forces, with all partners assembled around one same cause”.

During his visit Mr Sidibé also met Queen Mathilde who has made the issue of HIV and children a personal priority and has endorsed the Global Plan towards the Elimination of New HIV Infections among Children by 2015 and Keeping Their Mothers Alive. Mr Sidibé expressed his gratitude for the Queen’s unprecedented commitment to the global AIDS response.

As well as taking full ownership for its domestic response to HIV, Belgium continues to play a key role in the international AIDS response. Playing an active role as member of UNAIDS Programme Coordinating Board, earlier this year Belgium renewed its financial pledge to UNAIDS for 2013, 2014 and 2015 for an overall amount of EUR 14.52 million to support UNAIDS’ efforts in helping countries reach their HIV targets. This contribution places Belgium again among UNAIDS top 10 donors.

To further discussions around shared ideas on priorities and ways forward for the post-2015 development agenda Mr Sidibé participated in a bilateral consultation on HIV with the Belgian Federal Government.

Story via

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