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