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Positive Voices

On stigma

I work with a support group here in Cork and it’s notable the sheer amount of people who still don’t want it known they have HIV, or will not talk about it. I know people who go to the clinic in Dublin because they don’t want to be seen in the clinic in Cork. They are afraid of the ignorance of people. Some of them won’t even talk to their GP, which is vital.

In my own experiences as a gay man, I find other gay men can be very stigmatising. The last time I disclosed my status the reaction was appalling. I was called ‘filth’ -why did filth like me think somebody like him would be interested. I mentioned U=U to him (Undetectable equals Untransmittable - when a person with HIV has a viral load that is not detectable, they cannot pass on HIV through sex.) and, showing how ignorant he was, he said, “someone like you would probably make that up”.

There’s assumptions on what I’ve been doing, the kind of sexual behaviours I’ve been engaging in. It’s a moral judgement.

On ACT UP Cork

ACT UP Cork started about a year ago, we work closely with ACT UP Dublin. I was the representative from Cork when we went to see the Minister for Health about PrEP. We lobby politicians for better treatment. It’s mainly political activism, but we do what we can to get information out there.

On Undetectable equals Untransmittable

U=U isn’t being shared widely enough. For people like me living with HIV it’s life-changing and liberating. It needs to be shared everywhere. We need to get the message out there about how people can live longer and better.

I’m healthy, I’m in a hillwalker’s group, I’m in Front Runners here in Cork, I don’t think I’ve let HIV affect aspects of my health. I generally don’t even think about it - I take my two pills in the morning with my breakfast and that’s it.

On a peer mentoring support programme

I’m organising a peer mentoring support programme for people living with HIV. I went as far as Belfast and London to do my training, because there’s no funding for it here in Ireland. The plan is to make this a country-wide network of Positive groups working with Positive people.

We’ve just set up a Positive Cork here now. We want to get involved with the clinics, so when you get a newly diagnosed person, you have an initial meeting, you tell them this is going to be between six to 12 meetings, you tell them what they can expect from the course, help them deal with their HIV diagnosis.

If there’s any follow up needed, we could go to the relevant agencies with them if they want. It’s not just meeting and having a chat. Hopefully at the end of the 12 sessions they will be able to take off on their own. The whole idea is to get people not to be afraid, to talk about it.

To contact Positive Cork, you can email them at positivecork@gmail.com, or check their Facebook page - Positive Cork.

For more information on HIV and the U=U message, visit www.actupdublin.com, www.hivireland.ie, www.man2man.ieorwww.positivenow.ie.

This article appears in the 357 Issue of GCN

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This article appears in the 357 Issue of GCN