Meet My Tribe
I have mentioned before how privileged I feel to have met some incredible people since being diagnosed with HIV.
Being HIV+ can feel incredibly isolating until you meet other people who are going through it, who understand how you feel.
I have been very lucky to have made some incredible friends by attending events to raise awareness for HIV.
This is a beautiful photo of some of the people I have met. It was taken at the “40 Years of Terrence Higgins Trust” celebration held at Shoreditch Town Hall in October.
Here is a little bit more information about some of the people in this photo and how they have changed my life.
Jo Josh, is a writer, editor and Media Officer for BHIVA, (The British HIV Association) HIV activist at UK-CAB (The UK Community Advisory Board a peer-led network which aims to empower people living with HIV) Terrence Higgins Trust and the National AIDS Trust.
As a middle-class female in her 60’s living with HIV, Jo acknowledges that she’s not typical and people can’t deal with it. That is what I love about her. I’ve been lucky enough to share a few nights out with Jo after events we attended. She has intelligence, grace and wit in abundance, with a wickedly dry sense of humour which I adore.
Jo “came out” as HIV+ in an interview with BBC Breakfast where she spoke about the charity Body & Soul who transform the life threatening effects of trauma with love. http://bodyandsoulcharity.org/
Jo recognises that she’s become a kind of pin-up for ageing with HIV. To me, she is a huge inspiration not only for speaking up and speaking out, but for showing such kindness to others, and taking time for people.
Follow Jo on Twitter @commsbizchat and look up @BritishHIVAssoc for more information https://www.bhiva.org
Susan Cole-Haley now in her 50’s, has four children, three ex-husbands and once appeared in a naked cover of Positive Nation magazine whilst pregnant with her now teenage son. The cover highlighted that women with HIV can safely have babies.
She’s particularly passionate about issues affecting women and people from Black communities living with HIV, writing and presenting about the health inequities they face. Susan was awarded Woman of the Year at The NAZ OSCARS (nOSCARS) for her work with women of colour living with HIV and she was recently named as one of the top 10 Black HIV influencers in the UK.
Susan leads the community engagement and broadcasting activities for the HIV information charity, NAM Aidsmap.
I met Susan with Jo at an event called Gloves Off, where she was part of a panel hosted by drag Queen, Wallis Derspes.
The event was held at Her Majesties Theatre in November 2019, three years after I was diagnosed as HIV+
I knew the other panellists Jonathan Blake and Matthew Todd. There were others there that I knew, and performers from the West End. I wasn’t “out” about my status at the point, and remember feeling awkward and unfortunately when I saw people I knew.
Susan and Jo made me feel at ease, and I was inspired by their stories and willingness to talk to a complete stranger that I was able to open up and talk to them about my own status.
The three of us went for Christmas drinks afterwards and hit it off. Susan has an incredible generosity and voracious spirit, and is a brilliant public speaker.
Follow Susan on Twitter and Instagram @susancolehaley and join her network @aidsmap https://www.aidsmap.com/aidsmap
Stephen Hart is a Scottish actor and activist and featured in the Andrew Lloyd Webber–produced West End musical Bombay Dreams. He now produces his own YouTube channel Hart Talks.
I reached out to Stephen after watching several of his videos, and was then interviewed by him for his channel and for Radio Reverb’s HIV Hour Podcast.
He is incredibly softly spoken but with a twinkle in his eye, and the work he does to raise awareness for people living with HIV is incredible.
Stephen turned 50 a few weeks before I turned 40, and we both enjoyed and attended each other’s parties.
Follow Stephen on Twitter @stephenhart72 and on Instagram @harttalks1972 and find his YouTube channel here https://youtube.com/@StephenHartHartTalks
I will be shaving my head on World AIDS Day, 1st December to raise money and awareness for the Terrence Higgins Trust, as part of their Big Shave off.
Please sponsor me!
Your donation will help to raise vital funds to support people impacted by HIV today, tomorrow and into the future.
I have been living with HIV for six years, thanks to the support of my family and friends and the NHS.
The Terrence Higgins Trust helps people who don’t have the same support.
THT are the leading HIV and AIDS charity dedicated to preventing the spread of HIV, promoting awareness of AIDS, and providing supportive services to people with the disease.
They need your support to end new cases of HIV in the UK, and to fight stigma and support those living with HIV. Just £100 could fund 9 HIV self-tests so people can know their status sooner and get the medication and support they need to live healthy lives, 2 months training for 5 THT Direct volunteers to keep our support lines open, or 84 hours of online counselling to support people affected by HIV.
Terrence Higgins was one of the first reported deaths in the UK from AIDS related illness, on July 4th 1982. Three months after I was born.
I contracted HIV in 2016, when it was no longer a death sentence. Thanks to pioneering medicines that control and suppress the disease and prevent its transmission.
Last year I raise over £2000 for the Terrence Higgins Trust by running the London Marathon. I hope to now raise £250 by shaving my head on World AIDS Day, to commemorate everyone we have lost to HIV and AIDS.
“Coming out” as HIV+ was incredibly scary. But I am committed to helping others by continuing to raise money for the Terrence Higgins Trust.
This is my story:
If you would like to ask me any questions, or need someone to talk to, please DM or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Every message will be treated with the strictest confidence.
Follow me on social media @philipdehany
PLEASE GET TESTED if you do not know your HIV status, and are concerned.
Search for a test centre near you.
Or visit https://www.gov.uk/guidance/hiv-testing
If you have any other concerns or questions about living with HIV, these are just some of the organisations that will help.