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World AIDS Day: Matthew's story

Our volunteers are organising collections across the UK to support World AIDS Day. Matthew, one of our volunteers based in Manchester, shares why he's marking the day.

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By Matthew Walker

It’s nearing that time of year: Christmas and religious festivals are approaching. It’s also World AIDS Day next month, and to me it’s a time of sadness and celebration.

Remembering friends, friends of friends, and ex-partners who have sadly lost the fight of HIV related illnesses, but also a celebration of the people and how far the treatment and prevention has come in the last few years. 

Despite this progress, there’s still a huge stigma. Seeing people describe being HIV-negative as “clean” is a real shock; especially on LGBT social networks and dating apps. Within the first messages you get a lot of “are you poz or neg?” and “are you clean?”. My general reply is “yes, I wash” or just “my name is Matt”, which generally ends a conversation.

It is great to know your status and be responsible for your own actions but a person should not be defined by their blood.

Anyone around in the 80s will remember the tombstone adverts, and thankfully HIV and AIDS is not the death sentence it was. Great advances are being made and with things like free testing being widely available, PrEP1 and PEP2, various combination pills and also just living undetectable. But all these advances cost money.

So in past jobs, and now this one, I always try to raise money on World AIDS Day by selling red ribbons. You’ll find some of them in many Civil Service offices this week, or on the World AIDS Day website. It’s a small thing that makes a difference.

Please paint the town red, or just spare a £1 for a red ribbon if you can.

If you’d like to fund raise for World AIDS Day, you can order a box of red ribbons for your office from the World AIDS Day website.

  1. PrEP is a drug that can be taken to prevent you contracting HIV. 

  2. PEP is a drug that is taken after a potential exposure to HIV to prevent you contracting HIV.