Wednesday, July 18th, 2018
The Catwalk for Power, Resilience and Hope – an initiative started by women with HIV in London for International Women’s Day 2018– is going global next week with a workshop at The International AIDS Conference, in Amsterdam. Here is Laura’s account of why the Catwalk for Power is important.
After diagnosis, I lost my confidence and self-esteem. I couldn’t get myself to think I deserved the best in life.
Being part of the Catwalk for Power was transformative, it was organic; it was us, women living with HIV, everyday women who can often be overwhelmed with social inequalities and intersections that can make us underestimate our abilities, who lead and created the event. Everyday women who sometimes forget how much skills and resources we have as individuals and as a community,
When we started with the idea of the Catwalk for Power, we had no clue how exactly it was going to pan out, as we had no blueprint and we were struggling with finances. But we used our life experiences as individuals, mothers, professionals, peers, self-managers, activists etc., as we went on from organising one workshop to the other.
We all had journeys of self- discovery, finding out what we had forgotten we could do, what we didn’t know we could do, or reaffirming what we knew we could do. Using validation, and encouragement, we gave each of us a chance to participate and make decisions and contribute according to our abilities, taking on bigger roles, building confidence. Week after week, we were like flower buds opening up a little bit more
We learnt, we socialized we had fun, we challenged each other and we supported each other. Naturally we had moments of doubt and dips in confidence, but we found innovative and creative ways around them. As always, we were resilient and determined to self-care, look after ourselves, and see ourselves as deserving women, who often put other people first.
We had a variety of workshops to give each woman a choice and a chance to express herself the best way she could: we did hand crafts, watched films, discussed and found spaces to play, to be ourselves, ease off.
On the 7th of March 2018, the day of the Catwalk, for the first time since I was diagnosed I felt pride! Pride at being a woman living with HIV and having the opportunity to be part of this incredible group of resilient women who created a valuable safe place. By creating the Catwalk, we invented a space where to meet each other, search, find, be creative and empower ourselves,
We all strutted our stuff on the catwalk that day, even those who had no plans of walking until then, did: because at that moment, we realized that we are all deserving. We are already enough as we are. We are truly worthy.
Now, I will be part of the delegation taking the Catwalk for Power to the global scene at the International AIDS Conference in Amsterdam – and yes you can still support us by donating here: https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/catwalk4power. This is something that a year ago I would not have believed I could do… I am now looking forward to the future, full of possibilities, my personal life, career and outlook in life have changed because I have finally started to believe I truly deserve it … this is what the Catwalk for Power has been about for me: we didn’t wait for anyone; we did it ourselves by ourselves. We created an enabling environment as women living with HIV to remind ourselves of who we really are, finding the power within ourselves and our community as women!
What we achieved was a big lesson for me about the power of grassroots, taking ownership, creativity, community, sustainable women spaces, collective will and partnerships.
WE ARE HERE!
Bakita, the activist and young poet who introduced us on the night said; “WE ARE TAKING UP SPACE” because THE POWER IS OURS
Commissioners and providers of services, policy makers and all other stakeholders need to work in partnership with women living with HIV to actively support and fund sustainable women centred peer spaces. These spaces are essential in building women’s leadership and capacity to effectively participate in the decisions affecting us, and in enabling us to live well with HIV
The Catwalk of Power Workshop
22nd International AIDS Conference – Amsterdam
Tuesday 24th July
11:00 am 12:30 pm
Global Village Youth Pavilion
The Catwalk for Power is a collaborative initiative supported by Act Up London and Positively UK.
Thursday, March 8th, 2018
We are here to mark International Women’s Day, and it is important to remember the history behind what we are celebrating. International Women’s day was set in remembrance of strikes women workers set up in St Petersburg in Russia in 1917. Women were asking for better pay and better working conditions. It was the escalation of those strikes the brought about the October Revolution in Russia. One of the biggest power shifts in history. We must remember that as women we have a very long history of fighting for justice.
This fashion show is a humongous step for us as women with HIV, as openness about HIV can lead to being harshly judged, rejected, and even being at the receiving end of violence. The Catwalk is the fruit of over two months of workshops. We discussed, we wrote poetry, we watched films on the history of HIV activism, we stitched and we bitched, while sewing our outfits, we spoke to each other about women and leadership, we laughed and we argued! In this way we created our Fashion Show.
A few facts on women and HIV:
Moreover, there is a strong link between HIV and violence against women. A study in Homerton hospital in Hackney reported a 52% prevalence of Intimate Partner Violence amongst women with HIV. More than double that the general population.
When we have discussions in our groups, as we support women to develop a better understanding of violence against women in all its forms – not just a black eye – but emotional and financial violence, coercion and control. If we ask for a show of hands on average in a group of 22 women 18 will put their hands up to say that they have experienced some form of violence.
But, there is also some great news, and in preparation to this event women wanted for us to focus on some of the good news.
Because of effective treatment for HIV, by taking pills religiously every day, we can expect to live long lives. Moreover we now have 100% scientific evidence that when we take HIV treatment the virus is controlled we do not transmit HIV. It is called U=U: Undetectable equals untransmittable.
As women with HIV we really want everyone to know this. So next time you have an informal chat with a friend, instead of talking about the weather… maybe you could say: have you heard of U=U? Do you know that people with HIV who are on medications cannot transmit HIV?
However, I need to add a caveat on my enthusiasm for HIV treatment, because I know that the pills that I have been taking for the past 18 years, to keep me alive, have not been studied on my body. A huge issue for us as women with HIV is what we call the Gender Gap in research. On average Randomised Clinical Trials, which are used to research the efficacy and safety of ARV’s, enrol only between 15% to 20% of women. No wonder many of us struggle with side effects. According to PubMed: out of an average of 15,000 research papers published on HIV every year only about 500 have women in the title. I can guarantee that most of those are about pregnancy, because as you know… as women, we only matter when we have babies!
Today we are having a Catwalk of Power because we want to challenge the notion that women with HIV are victims. We are not victims. From the beginning of the epidemics women with HIV have been leaders and agents of change. Positively UK was set in 1987, as Positively Women, by two women living with HIV: Jayne and Sheila, who realised there were no services that met their needs – as most services at the time focussed on gay men. Sheila and Jayne set up the ethos of peer support which is still our foundation at Positively UK 31 years later. By creating Positively Women, which later became Positively UK, Jayne and Sheila set up a very profound strong hold of power: collective power. And it is only through collective power that societal changes have happened in history.
We are having a Catwalk of Resistance because if we didn’t resist, we wouldn’t be alive, given the challenges we face daily as women with HIV. Also, the creative process behind this catwalk is in itself a vital act of resistance.
Finally, we are having a Catwalk of Hope because through profound hope we sustain the vision that together we can create a world where women with HIV live with dignity and respect and where we can all share of all aspects of power: power to make decisions, economic power, political power.
The power is ours! THE POWER IS OURS!
This event was only possible because of the solidarity, generosity love and hard work of some incredible people huge thanks to:
Act Up Women who funded the costs of the workshops and the event, especially Mare Tralla and Donna Riddington who co-facilitated all the workshops and donated their expertise, passion and humour as feminist artists. Please check Act Up’s website if you would like to get involved in Direct Action to address HIV and health injustice.
Madam Storm got us all the strutting power, and more, we are all changed women after learning catwalk skills form her. She is a charismatic coach, performer, international dominatrix, who has as a mission in life to unlock women’s potential. If you want to increase confidence in the shortest time possible check her website for Strut Masterclasses. You can follow her on Instagram @MadamStorm
The British born Bajan poet Dorothea Smartt who enabled us to develop our collective poem.
Thank you to The Big Lottery who funds Positively UK Women’s Project.
Thank you to MAC Makeup and especially Abigail Rowley and her team for always supporting our events and making us all look even more fabulous on the Catwalk!
And of course, the biggest thank you to all the 25 women with HIV who strutted for International Women’s Day 2018 with all their power, and stated: I am here. We are here: The Power is Ours!
written by Silvia Petretti
Wednesday, December 13th, 2017
Being HIV positive shouldn’t stop women who want to, to be parents. With good treatment, care and support, women with HIV can expect to have a joyous pregnancy and parenthood just like any other person.
Despite this, many women may have doubts and/or questions about the implications of having HIV and becoming a parent. This is why we are running a one day Pregnancy Journey workshop, led by our mentor mothers – women who have been through pregnancy while being HIV positive – and with the participation of doctors and midwives, to support women who would like to know up-to-date information on HIV, pregnancy and parenthood.
On the day we will cover:
It will be a great opportunity to meet other women with HIV who are mothers or want to be mothers.
Lunch and Refreshments will be provided. Advance booking is required, reasonable child care costs and travel expenses will be reimbursed
Friday, November 24th, 2017
Thirty years since the outbreak of the HIV epidemic, the UK AIDS Memorial Quilt will be on public display in Westminster Hall to commemorate the lives of those lost.
The exhibition “People and Parliament: Remembering 30 Years of HIV and AIDS” will see six of the quilts go on display, to look back at how far we’ve come with HIV since the 1980s, but how much more there is still left to do.
Positively UK is proud to be part of the coalition of charities that have worked to display this irreplaceable piece of international social history.
The UK quilt panels will be on display in Parliament for one week only from 27 November, including World AIDS Day on 1 December, as part of an exhibition looking at parliaments role in the HIV epidemic, from the iconic 1987 tombstone adverts through to present day home HIV testing.
The UK AIDS Memorial Quilt is an irreplaceable piece of international social history and tells the stories of people whose lives were lost at the beginning of the AIDS epidemic.
Hundreds of individuals made quilt panels in memory of loved ones who had died from AIDS in the 1980s and 1990s, inspired by a global project that started in America.
The historic display has been organised by a coalition of charities including George House Trust, Terrence Higgins Trust, Positive East, The Food Chain, Positively UK and Sahir House, with support from the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on HIV – the oldest APPG. The charities hope the exhibitions will help remember those lost and raise awareness of HIV to younger generations.
HIV no longer stops those living with the virus leading long and healthy lives – but there is still much to be done to support those living with HIV, tackle stigma and diagnose the 1 in 6 who are unaware they have the virus.
Get involved on social media using the hashtag #AIDSQuiltUK
“The exhibition is both a remarkable visual testimony to the thousands of lives lost to AIDS and an important reflection on Parliament’s role throughout the HIV epidemic from the iconic 1987 tombstone adverts through to latest innovations such as HIV home testing.”
“The UK AIDS Memorial Quilt is an irreplaceable piece of international social history which tells the stories of people whose lives were lost particularly at the beginning of the AIDS epidemic. This exhibition must serve as a reminder of how far we have come in treating HIV/AIDS in the UK and the important role which Parliament has played and continues to play in ending the epidemic, but also how much more remains to be done in the UK and globally.”
Allan Anderson, CEO of Positively UK added:
“There is much cause to celebrate advances in HIV treatment and care. Through the U=U campaign we’re raising of how treatments reduce the levels of HIV so that a person living with the condition has no risk of transmitting it to a sexual partner. People living with HIV now have a normal life expectancy as the general population and we’re getting more people tested than ever before. However we still need to remember how far we have come, those we lost along the way and take time to commemorate those individuals on World AIDS Day.”
Monday, July 24th, 2017
We extremely excited to announce that our women’s project, ‘Positively Women’, will be holding a Between The Sheets event on Saturday 30 September.
This will be a day event exploring issues around: pleasure, sex, relationships, intimacy, and self-love for women living with HIV.
The day will include:
When: Saturday 30 September from 10:30 to 5pm
Where: Positively UK, 345 City Road, London EC1V 1LR
Between the Sheets events were started in 2012 by Sahir House in collaboration with Community Health in Liverpool, to offer women living with HIV a safe space to explore issues around sexuality, intimacy and pleasure. Positively UK is proud to carry on this legacy!
Friday, January 8th, 2016
Come along to our twice a month creative workshops at Positively UK, where we will be exploring new ways of sharing and discussing our diverse experiences of being women.
These workshops are open to women living with HIV of ALL ages
345 City Road, EC1V 1LR
it is a safe and supportive space
28th January, 11th February, 25th February, 10th March,
17th March, 14th April, 28th April
6:00pm – 8:00pm
Kat is a community theatre maker and lecturer at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama. She works collaboratively with community-based organisations to use creative ways to explore understandings of sex, sexuality and sexual health, using many different art forms.
Silvia is a woman living with HIV. She works at Positively UK as Deputy CEO leading on the policy and involvement work, ensuring people living with HIV are involved in decision making. Since 2004 she has been openly living with HIV because she believes it is a powerful way to challenge stigma against people with HIV.
Shema is an HIV specialist doctor and researcher at UCL whose main interest over the past ten years has been the health of women living with HIV. She is currently leading a nationwide research study (the PRIME Study) looking at menopause in women living with HIV.
Matilda has been involved with Positively UK for many years and has been a Trustee since 2013. She holds a BA in Drama, Applied Theatre and Education and an MA in Drama and Movement Therapy both at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama and currently works as Freelance Drama therapist and HIV Youth consultant.
Helen is a woman living with HIV. She works at Positively UK as Women’s’ Project coordinator. Since 2002, Helen has been a dedicated promoter and advocate for integrated, culturally sensitive care and support for ensuring people living with HIV as well as empowering them in coping with their HIV diagnosis, treatment and adherence.
Thursday, September 3rd, 2015
Women: Meet other women living with HIV and share experiences Inspire and be inspired: Learn about specific issues for women living with HIV and developing strategies to address them Support: Build a support network and learn how to find sources of support Empower: Know your rights, develop skills to be heard and influence decision making. Unleashing Positive Potential: Be yourself!
The workshop will include:
Previous WISE-UP+ attendee
Where: Luther King House, Manchester
When: 30th October to 1st November
To find out more contact us on:
020 7713 0444 | email@example.com
Travel, food and accommodation and some support for childcare will be provided.
Tuesday, July 21st, 2015
Am I doing it right?
How do I negotiate safer sex with my partner?
Will sex be the same after a diagnosis?
With the help of our special guests we will have a day filled with:
Saturday 19th September
11:00am – 5:30 pm
345 City Road, London EC1V 1LR
Monday, June 22nd, 2015
This Saturday, to promote awareness and show solidarity across everyone living with and affected by HIV, Positively UK will be marching at London LGBT Pride for the first time. The event will also mark the start of a new project supporting gay and bisexual men living with HIV in London.
For Jim Fielder, Positively UK’s new gay men’s support worker, this is his first Pride march and the first time he has been so public about his status since his diagnosis last year. ‘I believe it’s important to be open and to challenge some of the attitudes that still cause misery for many people living with HIV, including within the gay community’ says Jim. ‘I’ve been lucky. I had the confidence to get tested, get access to the latest medication and have a great support network around me. But this isn’t the case for everybody. In spite of the improvements in the treatment and care of HIV, a significant proportion of people living with HIV still report experiencing stigma and discrimination and this leads to poor physical and emotional health.’
The aim of Positively UK’s first Pride march is to show the face of HIV in 2015 and challenge the stigma people living with it still experience. One of these people is Steve who was diagnosed with HIV in 2014. Steve accesses support at Positively UK, but like many others wants to remain anonymous and won’t be joining in on Saturday. ‘Although I would love to be part of Pride, I will not be able to due to my social background. In my culture it is hardly acceptable to be gay, let alone to be gay and HIV+. I would be extremely worried and nervous that someone would see me marching on Pride day.’
‘We know that HIV stigma is a barrier for some people to get tested’ adds Jim ‘and as a quarter of people estimated to be living with HIV are unaware of their status, this is an ongoing problem. We may only be a small group marching on Saturday but we will be marching for all those people living in the shadows who still struggle to be more open about their HIV status and get access to the support they need.’
Positively UK will be marching under the theme of ‘We are Positive’ and encouraging people to tweet on the day using the hashtag #wearepositive. If you would like join them on the March please contact JFielder@positivelyuk.org or call 020 7713 0444
Thursday, April 9th, 2015