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DISPATCH: HIV – A Medical, Political, Social & Economic Disease
Posted on October 17, 2006 by Anita Roddick

When I last wrote reflecting on the last 20 years of the HIV epidemic, I said: ‘AIDS is the dominant health issue of our day, yet familiarity with it has not necessarily bred greater understanding of it. In fact, if anything, there is a dangerous cloud of ignorance and complacency settling back over the entire issue’. Today, years later, that cloud has only thickened.

2006 marked the 25th anniversary of the Western world’s discovery of HIV. In these 25 years, millions of people have lived with this disease and died from it. The UK has seen over 80,000 cases of HIV with numbers continuing to rise.

2005 saw the greatest increase in numbers of new infections in the UK; however we still live behind a façade that HIV is not a problem in this country.

Advances in medicine have meant that people living with HIV can live for many years without symptoms. New laws and changes in policy have given people living with HIV human rights and benefits that they hadn’t seen before. The war against AIDS in Africa has been waged by politicians and celebrities, relentless in bringing this epidemic to a stasis on the global scale. In many ways, life for people living with the virus is incomparably better than it was 20 years ago. However, the stigma and discrimination which shroud HIV, right here in the UK, are as scathing and detrimental as ever.

HIV is not just a medical disease but a political, social and economic disease as well. With no other illness are people exiled from their families and the communities they live in. With no other condition are people denied life insurance, a mortgage, or the right to travel into certain countries. With no other disease do children have to live in silence about their status; in fear and isolation from a world that will not touch them, hug them and befriend them because of an immune system that doesn’t properly work. And there is no other place in the UK besides Body & Soul where these young people can truly be themselves.

It is important that we as a society do not become complacent about our sexual health and the support we give to causes such as HIV.

The lack of awareness campaigns and myths in the media have had a dramatic impact on perceptions in society, and have left HIV an under-attended and under-funded issue. As the rates of transmission continue to rise, only 8% of Britons will donate money to HIV-related services. Thus, organizations like Body & Soul expand in client base, yet struggle to survive on a day to day level.

Despite all the challenges, I have watched Body & Soul grow as the leading UK organisation providing support to children, teenagers and families affected by HIV since its very beginning. I know very well their unconditional dedication and love to people living with HIV, and am thrilled that they are turning it out to the rest of the world in the hopes of combating the stereotypes, the myths, and the prejudice which devastate the lives of the people they support. As part of the ‘a smile is a gift’ campaign, this commercial is an innovative and effective tool aimed at breaking down the assumptions which continue to complicate society’s perceptions of HIV and raise the funds they need to continue giving smiles to the thousands of young people across the UK who are affected by the virus.

Through education and awareness, society can slowly shed the judgments, assumptions and myths that hinder progression in terms of HIV and begin to welcome into society all people, regardless of HIV status.

I urge you to check out Body & Soul’s new viral commercial, which was launched just last week in London, as part of their ‘A Smile Is A Gift’ campaign – the campaign aims to change the platform that HIV has found itself on; bring the concepts of respect, care and love through a simple call to action. A smile is easily spread, unlike HIV, and by spreading your smile you can make a difference to children living with the virus. The ad challenges the old-fashioned myths that some people still hold about HIV, by intelligently taking the picky out of the 1980s sterotypes.

This campaign hopes to raise £1 million to fund the refurbishment of the new building recently acquired by Body & Soul in London which will be a place that provides an environment for children to engage with and participate in activities in an everyday way.

Please help Body & Soul – you can donate to their work via their website and you can circulate the link to their viral commercial to everyone you know.

Topic : Sex
Posted By : Anita Roddick
Posted On : October 17, 2006



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Re : HIV – A Medical, Political, Social & Economic Disease
By Neil Hemming on October 25, 2006

Thank you, once again, Anita for constantly being aware and raising the real issues of people living with and effected by HIV. I am so proud to read this article and of the work of Body and Soul. What an amazing "viral commercial" and so close to my own heart. I have been living with HIV for 7 years and am constantly working to fight Stigma and Discrimination surrounding this epidemic. I cannot agree more with her in her belief that " familiarity with it has not bred greater understanding" In fact regression is the word that springs to mind. I recently was told of a guy that was refused a head message at a local Helath and Beauty Salon. He was brave and honest in being open with them about his diagnoses on the initial health consultation. The staff are up in arms and terrified with the risk to them. I cannot believe that anyone in this day and age really thinks that touching someone is a risk to him or her. It just educated me in to the ignorance of people in my local area of Chichester once again! How can they be so hard to judge someone so brave? Ask yourself a question, "How many people can put there hand on their heart and say that they have never in the last 25 years had unprotected sex?" The only difference between them and someone with HIV is a blood test!! It a lottery (not a very fortunate one) some win and some lose. If the girls in the beauty salon are worried about catching HIV they should think about what it is they are offering!! He only wanted a rub down with some lovely oils to relax him and boost his immune system. I feel gutted for how he must feel. If someone tells someone about their status (term used by people living with HIV) they should feel privileged that a person feels comfortable enough to share, rejoice in that and don’t give yourself another thought, it is not about you.

I am lucky enough to work for a charity called Iasis. We deliver medical care to people affected by Disaster, Conflict and those living in rural areas around the world. After reading Anita's Article I will talk to our Doctors about this "under attended" Issue. We will be looking at new projects in the new year and I hope on the back of this I can persuade them to help tackle the stigma issue in this country. It just has to stop, for all the children with HIV so that they will not have to cope with the stigma as adults. Thank you so much to Body and Soul for there work and I hope that we can help in the coming year. Its been a real inspiration in my work today.

The only thing I would like to enhance on is that; even with medication there is no such thing as symptoms free HIV. The mere fact that discrimination, stigma, social exclusion, rejected life insurance, no hope of buying ones own home, the refusal to travel to some countries (Including USA!!!) and many more social and political issues have a great affect on a persons self esteem, with it depression, anxiety, fear, loneliness, isolation. I would call of these symptoms. I am very lucky to have an amazing supportive partner and do not have these problems but I know countless people who do. Most people with HIV are not so blessed as I am.

Anyone reading this please donate to Body & Soul. It’s less than the price of a pack of condoms! But can still save someone’s life.

Once again, from all of us with HIV, thanks so for bringing this to the forefront, once again.

Neil Hemming
HIV Positive, unashamed and determined to make a difference


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