Tag Archives: AIDS

We really can beat HIV!

In October 2017, Public Health England reported an 18% drop in the numbers of people diagnosed with HIV in 2016 – this includes 18% fewer diagnoses among people of black African ethnicity compared to 2015.

This was the first time that we’ve had such a significant drop and it is was all down to a combination of things we can all do to make a difference.

New ways to stop the spread of HIV

The HIV epidemic started more than 30 years ago but recently there have been some big changes which we want to share with you and make sure everyone knows about. The number of HIV infections is starting to come down in some areas and this is down to a combined approach to stopping HIV. It’s no longer JUST about condoms, HIV treatment is now a part of our armoury against HIV – and part of protected sex.

Here’s how:

1) Treatment as Prevention (TasP)

If someone is on effective HIV treatment and has an ‘undetectable viral load’ they cannot pass on HIV. (The viral load is the amount of HIV measured in a blood test – most clinics in the UK classify undetectable as being below 20 copies/ml.)

We are saying this based on findings from the PARTNER study which looked at 888 gay and straight couples (and 58,000 sex acts) where one partner was HIV positive and on effective treatment and one was HIV negative. Results found that where the HIV positive partner had an undetectable viral load, there were no cases of HIV transmission whether they had anal or vaginal sex without a condom. It can take up to six months from starting treatment to become undetectable.

What this means: This is exciting news as it means treatment is a new way to stop the spread of HIV. Don’t forget though that sex without a condom still means you can get or pass on another sexually transmitted infection (STI) and can result in a pregnancy.

2) Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP)

PrEP is a course of HIV drugs taken by an HIV negative person who is at risk of getting HIV to lower their chance of becoming infected. When taken correctly, PrEP significantly reduces the chances of becoming HIV positive.

In England PrEP is not currently available on the NHS routinely, although 10,000 people will be taking it as part of the IMPACT trial, which started this autumn. In Scotland and Wales PrEP is available on the NHS.

What this means: If you are likely to be exposed to HIV, PrEP is another way to protect yourself.

3) Post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP)

PEP is a month-long course of HIV medication taken by an HIV negative person after possible exposure to reduce the chance of getting HIV. When started in time (within 72 hours, but within 24 hours is best) PEP can stop HIV infection after sex without a condom (or other exposure) with someone who is infectious – but it does not work every time.

What this means: PEP is the third way HIV treatment can be used to protect yourself, a doctor will assess whether you will be eligible or not depending on the risk taken.

Testing and treatment saves lives

In terms of stopping HIV this new information is monumental and the facts show that people power can dramatically reduce HIV transmissions. Regular testing means more people with HIV will be diagnosed and taking treatment – so they will be less likely to become ill and less likely to pass on HIV.

Despite the good news of a drop in HIV rates, 54% of newly diagnosed black African people were diagnosed late in 2016, which means they will have an increased risk of developing an AIDS-defining illness. The British HIV Association (BHIVA) recommends everyone with HIV starts treatment when they are diagnosed. This is because a study called START found that starting straight away significantly reduced people’s chances of developing AIDS-related illnesses.

So the problem we have is that although lots of us are being diagnosed and getting onto treatment in time, an even bigger proportion are finding out they have HIV at a point where their immune systems have been damaged. Regular testing is the linchpin of reducing late diagnoses and keeping people well.

Additionally, people are extremely infectious when they are first infected with HIV which is why early diagnosis is so important – if you are on effective treatment and have an undetectable viral load you cannot pass on HIV.

The Simple Science

HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. It was identified in the early 1980s and belongs to a group of viruses called retroviruses.

HIV uses your CD4 cells to reproduce, destroying them in the process. These are important cells which co-ordinate your immune system to fight off illnesses and infections. As the number declines, you may not have enough to keep your immune system working properly. At the same time the amount of HIV in your body (the ‘viral load’) will usually increase.

Without treatment your immune system will not be able to work properly and protect you from ‘opportunistic infections’.

Effective treatment will mean your CD4 count increases and your viral load decreases – hopefully to ‘undetectable’ levels.

The viral load test shows how much HIV is in your body by measuring how many particles of HIV are in a blood sample. The results are given as the number of ‘copies’ of HIV per millilitre of blood – for example 200 copies/ml.

An ‘undetectable’ viral load does not mean there is no HIV present – HIV is still there but in levels too low for the laboratory test to pick up. Different laboratories may have different cut off points when classifying an undetectable viral load, however most clinics in the UK classify undetectable as being below 20 copies/ml.

Modern HIV treatment means that many people with HIV are living long, healthy lives and if you’re taking HIV medication and have an undetectable viral load you cannot pass on HIV.

Getting tested

Our Rapid HIV testing service is available Monday-Friday between 9am – 4pm.  You do not need an appointment.

The test is performed at our office on Regent Road, Leicester by qualified and experienced HIV testers.  The process usually takes around 20 minutes.

The test is free to ‘at risk groups’ and always confidential.  If you’re not at risk, we can refer you to an alternative service who will be able to provide you with a free HIV test.  You can still test with us for £20 or you may prefer a free Home Sampling kit or buy a Home Testing kit from BioSure for £29.95.  You can also find details of other testing services by clicking here.

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A gay man’s experience of using PEP (Emergency HIV medication)

In recent months I experienced something I never thought I’d have to deal with when I faced the possibility that I might have contracted HIV.

I have been sexually responsible for my entire adult life and have always been heavily influenced by warnings of the past regarding HIV and AIDS, however all it takes is one moment of passion to let your guard down and you can find yourself in a situation similar to mine which resulted in me taking the HIV emergency medication known as PEP. The days leading up to my 28-day treatment were possibly some of the scariest of my life. Experiencing this drug first hand and the people I encountered along the way brought on a variety of conflicting emotions and an understanding of sexual health I never thought I’d have to comprehend.

Story via Metro

What is PEP?

Post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) is a month-long course of medication which aims to prevent HIV infection after the virus has potentially entered a person’s body. The drug is used as an emergency measure on a person who may have been exposed to the virus, either through infection or sexual transmission. Although PEP is not 100% guaranteed to always work, the success rate is very high. It’s very important to make clear that PEP should not be considered an alternative to using condoms as prevention for contracting HIV. Using condoms is the most effective method of preventing HIV transmission as well as other sexually transmitted diseases.

The drug should also not be viewed as some form of a morning after pill either – PEP is a powerful drug and users like me risk side effects, not to mention the fact PEP isn’t taken on just one occasion like with morning after pills. I myself am lucky enough to have not experienced any side-effects of PEP, but the potential side-effects include prolonged headaches, diarrhoea, nausea and vomiting. If you experience any of these side effects you should not stop taking the medication as once stopped, PEP will not be effective. Contact your doctor to discuss any issues you may be encountering on the drug to get an informed decision on what to do next. Timing is also crucial when it comes to PEP. If the course of drugs has not started within 72 hours of potential infection, the drug will no longer be effective.

Why I took PEP

My reasoning for using this often misunderstood drug was down to one thing: paranoia. The partner I had engaged in potentially risky sexual activity with was someone I know to be practising safe sex, and although we weren’t in a relationship we were very open with one another about our fears of HIV risks in the gay community and HIV tests we had previously taken. Nonetheless, I couldn’t shake the feeling of ‘what if?’ after this particular sexual encounter.

After two days of endless overthinking, excessive Googling and sheer panic I decided to bite the bullet and visit my nearest sexual health clinic. On this particular evening the clinic stated upon my entrance that the session was for appointment-only patients – my heart sank as this was my final chance to obtain PEP before the 72 hour window had closed. However, after quietly asking if I could speak to a nurse in private I was humbled to learn how genuinely concerned and helpful the staff at the clinic were. I was ushered into a private room where I explained my situation and within five minutes the nurse had made space for me and I was on the waiting list.

After a short wait I was seen by the doctor who carefully took note of my situation, perfectly explained what PEP was and reassured me that coming to the clinic after potentially being exposed to HIV was the right thing to do. Hearing that my decision to take PEP was the right one was all I wanted to hear from a medical professional at that time. The doctor agreed with my sentiment that if you’re asking yourself ‘what if?’ then you should absolutely take no risks when it comes to HIV, because, ultimately, the only sexual health status you can be 100% sure of is your own. After taking a few blood samples and a quick HIV test, which is something I had done many times over the past few years, I was given my PEP medication.

The instructions were to take one tablet in the morning and two at night, taken exactly 12 hours apart at the same time every day. I was however only given a three day supply of the drug. The doctor informed me that this is normal practice and it’s up to the patient to pick up the remainder of their 28 day supply from their pharmacy. It is absolutely imperative that users of PEP plan ahead to make sure their supply of pills does not run out before retrieving the full medication.

The future

My experience with PEP, which I am currently still using until my 28 days are up, has been both fearful and insightful. In the short amount of time between considering starting a course of the drug and actually taking it I learned more about HIV and the treatments available than ever before. I also came to appreciate the services we have available in this country – if I wasn’t lucky enough to live in such a privileged part of the world who knows how I would be forced to handle a situation like this. Life after PEP will most likely enhance my sexual health paranoia, however I believe that being overly careful is always better than being slack when it comes to an issue such as this. Although I’m confident my treatment will be successful, I am currently still in my PEP bubble which involves a daily routine of taking pills with an alarm reminder at either end of my days. In the end, whether I actually needed the drug or not in the first place, it was most definitely worth it.

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Life on London’s first Aids ward

In 1993, Gideon Mendel spent a number of weeks photographing the Broderip and Charles Bell wards in London’s Middlesex Hospital.

The Broderip was the first AIDS ward in London and was opened by Diana, Princess of Wales in 1987.  This was the era before antiretroviral medications had become available, a very distinct and tragic time. All of the patients on the wards, many of whom were young, gay men, were having to face the terrifying prospect of an early and painful death.

During his time at the hospital Gideon followed the stories of four patients in particular – John, Steven, Ian and Andre. These two wards at The Middlesex Hospital were some of the few dedicated AIDS wards that existed in London, and even more unusual for their decision to open themselves to being photographed.

Considering the high levels of stigma and fear that existed at the time, the decision of these four patients to allow themselves, alongside their families, lovers and friends to be photographed was an act of considerable bravery.

During his time at the hospital, he photographed their treatment and many other aspects of ward life, including the intimate way in which the staff, patients and their families related to one another.

Treatment was not a passive process, but rather an active engagement on the part of the patients, who were often extremely knowledgeable about their condition. The staff too became far more attached to their patients than was commonplace in hospitals at the time.

All of the patients in these photographs died soon after the pictures were taken. They were the unlucky ones, who became sick just before treatment became available.

The Ward poignantly reminds us of a different time, how it felt to live with HIV when it was considered a veritable death sentence, and how the wards at the Middlesex Hospital became unique and special places full of love.

Mendel’s project aimed to move away from the representations in the popular media at the time, which he believes tended to show the horror of the illness.

“The work is gentle and compassionate and loving, and the intention was to try and move away of images of people living with HIV as being emaciated, dying skeletons,” he says.

“I was trying to show relationships and show the love.”

“The Ward” Photo Book is available to buy from World AIDS Day, 1st December 2017 – ISBN: 1907112561 

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Why we shouldn’t be scared of ‘The Test’

LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 14:  Prince Harry has blood taken by Specialist Psychotherapist Robert Palmer as he takes an HIV test during a visit to Burrell Street Sexual Health Clinic on July 14, 2016 in London, England. Prince Harry was visiting the clinic, run by Guy's and St Thomas NHS Foundation to promote the importance of getting tested for HIV and other STDs.  (Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images)

Prince Harry takes a HIV test during a visit to Burrell Street Sexual Health Clinic.  Prince Harry was visiting the clinic to promote the importance of getting tested for HIV.  (Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images).  Click here to read about Harry’s fight against HIV and his mother, Princess Diana’s Visit to LASS in November 1991. 

Some people think taking a HIV test is scary, but honestly it shouldn’t be. The condition is entirely manageable.  If you test positive, early detection, monitoring and effective treatment means that your life can largely carry on as before.

Incredible medical progress has been made in the last 20 years and HIV treatment is now very effective. If you are diagnosed with HIV before it has damaged your body and you are put on effective treatment, you can expect to live as long as anyone else.

HIV treatment aims to lower the amount of HIV in the body to undetectable levels. Global research, known as the PARTNER study, has found that HIV cannot be passed on when the virus is undetectable. In other words, if someone is on effective HIV treatment, it is extremely unlikely that he or she will pass on HIV to anyone else.

This is a massive breakthrough. It means that if everyone with HIV were on effective treatment, we could finally stop the spread of HIV. Until then, it is essential to use condoms to protect yourself.

For some people the idea of being tested for HIV is as simple as making a note in a calendar, an entry which sits comfortably beneath a dentist appointment and above a mother’s birthday. For others, the idea of making that appointment, or taking that long walk to the clinic, is one of the most nerve-wracking experiences they can imagine. However, in an age where the numbers of people diagnosed with HIV are increasing, has our natural fear of the unknown become a luxury we simply can’t afford?

Many years ago it was a scary disease. We called it AIDS and it became a name associated with sin and death. The massive number of infections, particularly in the gay community, were staggering, and as the death toll slowly crept up, nations across the world panicked. It’s impossible for any society to come through such a dark time and emerge unscathed, and so the fear of a silent killer left a scar on our cultural memory which has never really healed, and even in 2016, the mere mention of HIV and AIDS still has a way of stopping conversations.

Thankfully, things have changed since then and treatment for HIV is better now than it has ever been. People who have the condition are now finding that their lives have not changed completely, and they are still able to live as long and do all the same things they could before. It’s true that they now have a few additional concerns to think about but with the help of medication, HIV is now manageable.

HIV is no longer the death sentence it used to be and people are able to live, healthy and happy lives like they did before. However, this is thanks to the amazing progress we have made in treating the condition and we can only begin to do that when we make the decision to get tested and keep on top of our health. Late HIV diagnosis in Leicester is 13.8% higher than the average for England.  It’s a scary prospect to some and no one takes that for granted, but by taking the chance to be tested, you could be buying yourself years of life.

GET A HIV TEST AT LASS

Our Rapid HIV testing service is available Monday-Friday between 9am – 4pm.  You do not need an appointment.

The test is performed at our office on Regent Road, Leicester by qualified and experienced HIV testers.  The process usually takes around 20 minutes.  If you’re unsure, or would like to speak to someone about HIV Testing, please call us on 0116 2559995 or pop in and see us.

The test is free to ‘at risk groups’ and always confidential.  If you’re not at risk, we can refer you to an alternative service who will be able to provide you with a free HIV test.  You can still test with us for £20 or you may prefer a free Home Sampling kit or buy a Home Testing kit from BioSure for £29.95.

Other places which can test for HIV

SHACC (Sexual Health and Contraceptive Clinic) in Leicester.  They offer information, advice and screening for Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) as well as HIV in GP settings.  For more information or to book an appointment Phone 0800 75 66 277 or visit shacc.co.uk

St Peters GU Medicine Clinic provide Free, confidential services including STI testing including HIV tests along with A full range of contraception including Post Exposure HIV Prophylaxis – PEP/PEPSE Tel: 0300 124 0102 or 0800 318 908 or visit them online at leicestersexualhealth.nhs.uk

Trade Sexual Health offers a rapid HIV testing service for LGB&T individuals.  Contact them on 0116 2541747 or visittradesexualhealth.com for more information.

There are lots of places where you can get a HIV test if you’re unable to use services in Leicester or Leicestershire.  Visit NAM, they have an online portal which can help you find a service in your area.

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Nine ways funding for the global HIV response could go further

 A young girl living with Aids takes her drugs at her home in Ndiwa, western Kenya. Photograph: Simon Maina/AFP/Getty Images

A young girl living with AIDS takes her drugs at her home in Ndiwa, western Kenya. Photograph: Simon Maina/AFP/Getty Images

Story via The Guardian

1 | Protect and promote human rights

Public resources are wasted on enforcing laws that criminalise HIV transmission and dehumanise at-risk populations. By contrast, laws that protect at-risk populations are powerful, low-cost tools that help ensure that financial and scientific investments for HIV are not wasted. Enacting laws based on sound public health and human rights will ensure new prevention and treatment tools – such as PrEP [pre-exposure prophylaxis], male circumcision and microbicides – reach those who need them. Changes in the legal and policy environment, along with other interventions, could lower new adult HIV infections to an estimated 1.2 million by 2031 (compared to 2.1 million if current efforts continue unchanged). Mandeep Dhaliwal, UNDP

2 | Make drugs cheaper

One way to make limited funds go further is to challenge drug companies on the high price of life-saving drugs. The use of unmerited patents by pharmaceutical companies to secure monopolies on their products must stop. Make Medicines Affordable is working with civil society to challenge unmerited patents and useTrips agreement flexibilities. Julia Powell, International Treatment Preparedness Coalition

In lower middle-income countries, the average antiretroviral (ARV) treatment cost for a new adult patient is around $350 [£283]. Of that, just 40% is the cost of the ARV – 35% is non-ARV recurrent costs (clinical salaries, laboratory etc) and then 25% is programme management. We really need to dissect non-drug costs and find ways to reduce costs with regard to generic licensing and optimising manufacturing costs. Anand Reddi, Gilead Sciences

3 | Support LGBT groups

There are some great new global funds supporting funding for local and national LGBT groups so that they can gather data on access to medicines for their community, in a way that ensures their confidentiality and safety. The Rapid Response Fund, funded by the Elton John Aids Foundation (EJAF), the President’s Emergency Plan for Aids Relief (Pepfar) and UNAids, will support civil society organisations that are led by, or work closely with, MSM [men who have sex with men] and LGBT people and communities, to implement rapid responses to situations or events that threaten their access to HIV services. Grants of up to $20,000 [£16,000] are available. Mike Podmore, STOPAIDS

4 | Support adherence to ARVs

Drug resistance is a huge issue and one to which we are only just waking up. The World Health Organisation has produced a 2017-21 action plan which, I think, underlines that we have neglected to focus on adherence and support people not just to access ARVs, but to stay on them. Mike Podmore

5 | Integrate HIV into health sectors

Finance ministers tend to think in terms of sectors (eg health) or a clusters of sectors (eg the social sectors – education, health, social welfare), rather than in terms of individual issues like HIV. We need to integrate Aids financing into domestic health financing and make the argument to finance ministers that they need to increase investment in the social sectors, and health in particular. We need to underscore why this is an important investment in human capital and, therefore, in economic development. David Wilson, World Bank

6 | Collect and spend taxes on health

Some countries with major HIV epidemics have actually progressively reduced the share of the government budget they allocate to health, and many African countries with major HIV challenges collect a smaller share of GDP as revenue – and spend more collecting that small share – than comparable economies elsewhere. We must ensure that a significant share of the greater revenue collected is allocated to health, and spent as efficiently as possible. David Wilson

7 | Integrate HIV and water and sanitation programmes

Safe water can make an enormous difference to the health and wellbeing of people living with HIV. It can increase drug effectiveness by reducing diarrhoea and collaboration between HIV specialists at Safaids and in the water and sanitation sector have identified ways to integrate water and HIV programming more effectively in southern Africa to streamline investments. In addition, arecent systematic review showed that water and sanitation interventions to reduce morbidity among people living with HIV were cost-effective, particularly when incorporated into complementary programmes. Louisa Gosling, WaterAid

8 | Coordinate responses

In the HIV/Aids space, we can work with others focusing on health to share costs. In Malawi, for example, our mobile clinic teams test and treat for malaria and TB even though our core focus is HIV. Also, in our door-to-door testing pilot – where a team of eight canvases a village over a week to perform HIV tests – that same team will check for bed nets. If they do not have one, our HIV testing team will leave one and teach the family how to use it. One team, but two major health issues covered. Joel Goldman, The Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation

9 | Push for more funding

We must reject the assumption that we will/can have less money and, instead, make it clear that less money, or even maintaining the same levels of funding, will lead to an increase in infections and deaths globally. Many organisations working on the global HIV and TB responses are shouting loudly about the funding alarm. It became even more urgent when the Kaiser Family Foundation found that global donor financing had reduced by 13% from 2014 to 2015. Our only way forward is to increase general public awareness and demand for donors and INGOs to increase HIV and TB funding up to 2020, and make it possible to end the epidemics by 2030. If not, we risk a terrifying rebound of the epidemics that we will struggle to get a grip on again. Mike Podmore

Read the full Q&A here.

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What It’s Like to Tell Your Boss That You’re HIV Positive

Office Workplace

In the modern British workplace, you can’t be fired or discriminated against in any way on the grounds that you’re HIV positive. That would be a criminal offence. Notifying your employer isn’t a legal requirement, but if you do chose to disclose your status and are met with anything other than support, confidentiality and reasonable adjustments, then your employer has almost certainly broken the law.

Story va VICE.
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Part of the Equalities Act 2010 was created to lessen its impact in employment and ensure disclosure wouldn’t jeopardise careers or future opportunities. Under the legislature, people with HIV cannot be treated less favourably under any circumstances. But thanks to the stigma and misunderstanding surrounding HIV, some have found it wholly ineffectual.

Had Shaun* stayed silent about his own diagnosis, he wouldn’t be fighting to save his career. “I have felt over the past two years that they were looking for ways to get me,” he says. For the last six years, Shaun has worked in the insurance department of a FTSE 100 British supermarket chain and has asked for anonymity as the situation is ongoing.

He received his diagnosis one Monday lunchtime in September of 2013. Disorientated, he returned to work the following morning, but by 9:30AM he found himself coerced into a meeting room while human resources tried to determine the cause of his visible distress. Despite his best efforts to resist disclosing his status – one he had barely begun to come to terms with – he was told he would be sent home if he refused to explain his discomfort.

“I felt forced. I wasn’t ready to say it myself, to anyone, never mind the HR person who I don’t really know,” he recalls. “I disclosed. She literally just went, ‘I’ll need to go and check whether I’ll need to tell all the first aiders.’ I was like, ‘I don’t even have to tell you, never mind anyone else.’ I got a message in the afternoon saying they had checked and they didn’t need to tell the first aiders.”

Shaun was under no legal obligation to disclose his status to anyone in his company. Six weeks later, they displayed an offensive level of ignorance around the subject.

“They took me into a room and told me they’d done some research and that if I cut myself at my desk, or in the building, to make sure that someone comes into the room and cleans it up,” says Shaun. “I believe my words were, ‘Well of course, if you were a negative person you would just lie in a pool of your own blood, wouldn’t you?’ That just angered me even more because where have they researched it? Where have they got that information from?”

The Equalities Act 2010 states employers are to make reasonable adjustments with regards to people living with HIV; the most common being time off for clinic appointments. Despite an attendance track record Shaun describes as “exemplary” (before his diagnosis he hadn’t taken sick leave since 2009), his employer began tracking his absences on a spreadsheet stored on the company server.

“My head of department wanted to know which appointments were not covered by the Equalities Act, with no details or explanation to me as to why they wanted that information,” explains Shaun. “I said, ‘You’re making me feel like you’re out to get me. And, allegedly, that’s not the case. I don’t believe them, but at the same time they said because I’m spending so many hours out of the business, they were trying to quantify how much work I had done.”

When he disclosed his status, Shaun was stunned by how little his employers knew about HIV – especially with regards to employment law. This was, after all, the well-resourced HR department of a FTSE 100 company; that they can brazenly display such ignorance – not to mention intolerance – and get away with it doesn’t bode well for people living with HIV who work in much smaller businesses.

Alice started working as a sales consultant at a London-based recruitment firm – a small company with five employees – four months after her diagnosis. Shortly after starting her medication she fell ill and decided to let her boss know, meeting up with him in a pub outside of office hours.

“It was just awful,” she says, recalling his reaction to her disclosure. “Straight away I could tell it was the wrong thing to do because his eyes widened and then he said, ‘When am I gonna get AIDS? When am I gonna be ill?’ He started to freak out and then said he needed to change the contract because if I fell over he was going to be sued. He said, ‘Why the hell didn’t you say? I think it’s so unfair that you didn’t say.’ I thought he would thank me for telling him and maybe be a bit shocked. I was speechless.”

The conversation lasted around 40 minutes, with topics ranging from the potential dangers of sharing cups and cutlery in the office (there aren’t any dangers), the jokes he had previously made about people with HIV in the office (which he then denied making), the fact he needed her parents’ number in case anything happened to her (he didn’t) and his anger that he wasn’t told sooner.

The discussion finished constructively with a promise that he’d put together a workable plan. She never made it back into the office. Instead, she received an email stating that she’d failed to pass her probation and wouldn’t be kept on. Compared to a previous conversation Alice had with him, it made for a sharp change of direction.

“He honestly was like, ‘You’re gonna make loads of money,'” says Alice, considering their relationship prior to his disclosure. “We were working really closely together, starting to do other projects.”

While Shaun and Alice have faced difficulty from their employers on account of their HIV status, Jayce Carberry, 26 from Medway, Kent, suffered from the prejudice of his clients. He received his diagnosis in 2012 and at the time was working as a freelance hairdresser. When the rumours about his diagnosis started to spread through his relatively small hometown, he chose to own the situation and address them with a Facebook status.

“I was doing really well and I was busy all of the time,” says Carberry. “I text to confirm appointments, and [after my Facebook status] I would get a text or a phone call back saying, ‘I read on Facebook about your HIV and I don’t really feel comfortable with you cutting my hair.’ I would say I lost a good 40 percent of my client base.”

The most common reason his clients abandoned him was their irrational fear of what would happen if he cut himself on his scissors and they came into contact with his blood (very little, is the answer). With a sharply diminished client list, he tried to return to a salon he previously worked at and invested in. He was told hiring him “would be a risk to the reputation of the salon”. He had previously left the salon on good terms and the owner was supposedly a friend.

“I gave up hairdressing. It was demoralising with all that going on,” he says. “I got really depressed about it and hid away from the world for a couple of months and lived off my savings for a while. And then I went to sign on. I had no other option.” Carberry has since moved to Brighton. As well as setting up a blog detailing his journey, he now manages a sexual health website for the METRO Charity.

There’s a definite sense that fighting, even if you’re on the right side of the law, is difficult, if not impossible. While Shaun may yet find himself in an employment tribunal, Alice chose to avoid a lengthy and expensive trial. As Jayce Carberry was self-employed, he has no case at all.

Legal fees, time constraints, lack of evidence, ignorance around employment rights – the reasons why HIV discrimination in the workplace often goes unpunished and underreported are numerous. But the stigma and misunderstanding of HIV is what enables the law to continually be undermined. Until companies – and the general public – gain better knowledge of what the virus is, these stories will sadly continue to repeat themselves.

Is your workplace ready?

Did you know we can offer training for your employer or for your workforce?

*Name changed to protect identity

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It isn’t going away!!

aiwga

The story of how LASS has responded to the challenge of HIV and AIDS was featured at this year’s East Midlands Oral History Day at Nottingham Library.

Tim Burke, who helped run our 25th anniversary history project in 2014, spoke to the conference about how the project got off the ground and about the interviews with volunteers and staff past and present that resulted in our publication “…and it won’t go away”.

He also read some extracts from the book that showed how LASS volunteers over the years have supported people living with AIDS/HIV.

“There was a great deal of interest from conference participants and they snapped some of the few remaining copies of the book,” said Tim.

“It was something of honour to be asked to contribute to the conference and I hope it will have further raised awareness of the significance of LASS’s work since 1987.”

This year’s event had a theme of oral history and health and LASS’s project was featured alongside other oral history projects ranging from working at Boot’s the Chemist to the medicinal use of cannabis and people’s experiences of life in and out of mental hospitals.

For more, and for your own copy of “…and it won’t go away”. Read the following article:

“…and it won’t go away.” 25 Years of Leicestershire AIDS Support Services

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TWB  FBB

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