Positively UK, staff, service users, peer mentors and associates strutted through the streets of central London on Saturday 7th July for Pride in London. David – Peer youth worker, organiser of Positively UK at Pride in London this year, tells us how it went and why Pride still matters to us.
It was a bright sunny day, perhaps too much so, but armed with sun screen and litres of water we congregated before the march in Regents Park. Everyone was in bright spirits and it was great to see such a mix of people involved. There were staff, peer mentors, service users, family and friends, turning up one by one. We put on a bunch of Positively UK t-shirts, pride coloured face paints, copious lashings of glitter and soaked up the great atmosphere of the event, as we got ready. We unfurled our Positively UK flags, and our banner that we would carry throughout the march which proclaimed: ‘Proudly Undetectable.’
We marched from Park Crescent, Regents Park, through the 1.5-mile route ending in Trafalgar square. The streets were lined with a crowd, estimated at close to a million supporters, cheering, waving and giving support. We made a statement that HIV is not over in 2018, and we do not sit quietly, but march through the streets.
The theme of pride this year was PRIDE MATTERS. Today in the UK, (mostly) equal rights do not mean real equality and justice for all. Hate crimes towards LGBT+ people, on the streets of London, have doubled in the last 5 years. Still today 75% of LGBT+ people fear showing affection in public for fear of retribution and violence. In Northern Ireland there is still heavy discrimination with same sex marriage being outlawed. Around the world it is still illegal in 72 countries to engage in same sex relations, and in 10 of those it can carry the death sentence. Transgender individuals around the world face truly inhumane levels of violence and discrimination. Trans people have the highest level of HIV, with abysmal access to health services including HIV prevention, testing, treatment, and care. We have a long way to go.
On the march, passing the cheering crowds I was pondering something to myself. If you would have asked me in my first few years post-diagnosis, if I would walk with my head held high, wearing a t-shirt saying, ‘proudly undetectable’, holding a banner with the same text, I would have said ABSOLUTELY NOT. However, times change. I was not the young man, terrified by my diagnosis a few years ago. I am proud of what I have achieved through volunteering in peer support and subsequently working with Positively UK.
So, for myself personally It was a milestone on my journey living with HIV. I have a choice, when looking at my diagnosis, to live in pride or in shame.
Marching at Pride as an openly HIV positive person reinforced in myself the belief that the only shame in living with HIV, is that which society and others place on us. We write our own stories, and last Saturday I put my shame to rest.