New challenges

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All throughout my life knowing that I am living with HIV, I have endeavoured to remain positive. Positive in outlook and about life in general. Recently I have started a new role with Oxfam Ireland. I’m working with a great team of guys and girls as we knock doors out and about around Dublin and further afield.

My role is as a direct dialogue fundraiser. What does that mean? I hear you ask. Well simply it is speaking to people on their doorsteps about the work of Oxfam, raising awareness of ongoing campaigns, and helping them realise that they too can make a difference by making a small donation once a month.

Although I am off today, following a stomach upset yesterday, I am looking forward to getting back on the doors and telling of the great work that Oxfam is doing for the people of Syria.


A quiet weekend with plenty of peace and love.

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Once more it has been some time since I posted. But that is simply because life has been good. In recent weeks, Andrew and I have sorted out the details for our upcoming wedding in July. The date has been set and we have notified the Irish State of our intention to marry. The date is 12 July 2016. (Yes there is another website about that.)

This afternoon we walked along the Grand Canal and then back through the city centre. The distance covered was about six-and-a-half miles. Sadly I did not take my mobile phone with me so Google Fit did not record it. Ah well!

Last night we enjoyed watching the Eurovision Song Contest complete with what is probably the maddest thing we have ever seen at it.

Wasn’t Måns Zelmerlöw simply wonderful? 


Why do I write HIVBlogger?

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John talks to GBC on World AIDS Day in Gibraltar. Photo: GBC.

Over the years, many people have asked me why I write my blog, or why I am so open about living with HIV whether it is in real life, on Twitter, or Facebook, or even on television. Sometimes I wonder myself. However, today was one of the days that made it all worth it.

I was contacted by someone on my Facebook page who needed advice. Obviously, I cannot go into details here, but he is waiting for a test result and is worried about what a positive result will mean. He also feels that he has no one to talk to. So this afternoon he talked to me.

Being there to help someone, even one person, is why I continue to be as open about living with HIV.


NHS fails miserably to stand up for HIV prevention. #WhereisPrEP

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Getting-to-Zero-Logo

There is no doubt that finding a way to prevent transmission of HIV is one of the most important goals for any health service or society in general. Whilst HIV can be treated with anti-retroviral drugs it would be much better for there to be no more transmissions. That is why UNAIDS has been working towards “Getting to Zero” for the last few years.

NHS England has recently decided to scrap its work on providing PrEP. There were plans for a public consultation with a final decision on the issue in June. These have now been abandoned.

In response to the press release put out by NHS England, NAT has said,

“NAT shares the anger and distress felt by many thousands of people across the country at NHS England’s decision to abandon its work to provide PrEP, near the very end of the process.  In a shocking U-turn, NHS England has pulled the plug on over 18 months of hard work which demonstrated the need, efficacy and cost-effectiveness of PrEP.

“Instead of a long-term policy to give PrEP to all who need it, there will be £2 million over two years for 500 gay men ‘most at risk’.  The decision is not informed by any due process; the amount of money is arbitrary; the claim that more ‘testing’ of PrEP is needed is disingenuous.  500 does not remotely cover the number of gay men at high risk of HIV nor meet the needs of heterosexuals at risk.  There is no clarity within the Department of Health, the NHS or Public Health England as to who long-term is responsible to commission and fund PrEP.

“This is simple maladministration with serious consequences.  Over 5,000 gay men will get HIV over the next two years – very many of whom would not have done so if PrEP had been delivered as proposed.

“The US, Canada, France, Israel, Kenya have all made PrEP available.  Faced with one of the most exciting prevention options to emerge since the HIV epidemic began, and which offers the prospect of real success in combatting this virus, the NHS has failed miserably to deliver.

“We call on Ministers to intervene and reverse this deplorable decision – securing a process to provide PrEP on the basis of evidence and need.”

There appears to be much confusion about who is responsible for what in the healthcare system in England, and I fear that this is only going to get worse. It is time for a national body truly responsible for ensuring that systems that will benefit the whole country (not just England but the UK) are put in place.

Perhaps there will be work done by the devolved administrations in Holyrood, Cardiff, and Stormont on this issue. Somehow, I fear, we should not hold our breath.

 

Make Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (Prep) immediately available on the NHS

Sign the online petition here.

PrEP is as effective as condoms in preventing HIV transmission Studies PROUD & IPERGAY both showed that PrEP dramatically reduced infections-no instances of someone who was taking PrEP properly getting HIV
NHS England won’t provide PrEP until late 2016 at the earliest This is too long to wait

Pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, is a prevention option for people who are at high risk of getting HIV. It’s meant to be used consistently, as a pill taken every day,

Terrence Higgins Trust is advocating for PrEP because it has the potential to prevent new infections among some of those at greatest risk of acquiring HIV.

PrEP is not yet available through the NHS on prescription and there is no agreement yet for when this may happen.

Proud Study – http://www.proud.mrc.ac.uk


Looking forward to All Ireland HIV conference

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Logo of Positive Life

Tomorrow I will be attending the All Ireland Conference for people living with HIV organised jointly by Positive Now and Positive Life. The speakers include one of the doctors who looked after me when I was in Belfast, Dr Say Quah.

The topics that are being covered are:

  • The Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV): Host Pathogen Interactions.
  • HIV Transmission and the Law
  • Whose Voice? Whose ideas?: Reflections on the Potentials of Collaborative Research
  • Sharing information between Health Professionals – Changing the Culture.

As a law student I am particularly interested in the second, and I strongly support the idea of sharing information about HIV care etc between health professionals.

I hope to be tweeting from the conference as well as keeping half an eye on the results from the Elections to Dáil Éireann.

 


Concern at poverty, hunger, and HIV: a conversation in Dublin city centre

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Image courtesy of africa at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Yesterday I was out in Henry Street in Dublin and walked past a fundraiser for a charity, initially I said to him I was too busy, and walked into a shop. Having collected what I was there for, I left and walked back along the street and the fundraiser said “So you have returned to me then?”

I decided that I could spare the time, so stopped and had a great conversation with him. OK, so it helped that he was quite cute, but seriously he was very enthusiastic about the work that the charity does. He told me about the work Concern does with the 6.5million internally displaced people in Syria. This figure includes 2.8m children. Concern works to ensure that the children still receive some education despite being away from their homes.

I told him that I would read more about the work on their website, and that I might write something for my blog. That lead to me coming out as living with HIV once again. That disclosure led me to learn that that is another area of work for Concern. I was thanked by the fundraiser for being so open about living with HIV myself.

Educating Irish students

In 2011, people aged between 15 and 24  accounted for 40% of all new adult HIV infections. This proves that HIV and AIDS education is extremely important in secondary education.

So, we have created a full resource pack about HIV and AIDS. It includes lesson plans, discussion questions, activities and four videos examining prevention and testing, stigma, access to treatment and living positively.

The pack is free to download and costs €10 to order.

You can download the pack now.

Support the work of Concern

To end poverty and hunger, we all need to do our part. If you want to help support the work that Concern does worldwide, please visit their website and get involved.

Image courtesy of africa at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Recipe 1: Crustless Quiche

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Note Book Among The Vegetables

As I start working towards eating more healthily in 2016, I am reposting this recipe and a couple more to begin with.

The easiest low-carb recipe is crustless quiche – I throw a carton of egg whites, cheese, and veggies into a pyrex and bake until brown on top. If you eat meat you can add it in too. There are so many variations to this that it never gets old.
Baking them in cupcake pans works too and makes packing lunch pretty simple. from http://blushandbarbells.wordpress.com

Keep a look out for a few more recipes in the future.


HIV self tests now available in North thanks to legal change

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From yesterday, following a legal move1 made by the North’s health minister, it is now possible to buy HIV self-testing kits and to test yourself for HIV.

minster-hamilton-official-pic-2015
Simon Hamilton MLA, health minister in Northern Ireland.

Speaking on World AIDS Day, [Simon Hamilton MLA] said: “The change in the law will allow HIV self-testing kits to be sold to the public in Northern Ireland. Some people are reluctant to get tested for a number of reasons, including stigma and a fear of being judged, so self-testing will have an important role in reaching those who are not using existing services.”—DHSSPS press release 1 Dec 2015.

Testing at home is only one option of many available. There is also the more traditional route of going to the GUM clinic at one of several hospitals, or going to your own General Practitioner. There are also rapid testing projects at The Rainbow Project and Positive Life.

It should be borne in mind, however, that a home test may produce a false positive result or that the test may not be correct because of the window period. False reassurance may be the result and a later additional test may help to reassure.

List of Genito-Urinary Medicine clinics in the North:

  • The Royal Victoria Hospital, Belfast
  • The Causeway Hospital, Coleraine
  • Altnagelvin Hospital, Londonderry
  • Tyrone County Hospital, Omagh
  • Daisy Hill Hospital, Newry

For free advice on opening times of clinics and other assistance you can phone Positive Life’s Freephone Confidential Line on 0800 137 437 (in the UK).

Notes

1. The HIV Testing Kits and Services (Revocation) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2015 No. 412. (legislation.gov.uk)


We Can. I can. Supporting #WorldCancerDay

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HPV (Human Papilloma Virus) is the virus which causes Genital Warts and can lead to oropharyngeal, penile, anal and cervical cancer. At this stage all cis females are vaccinated against the most pervasive strains of HPV at age 14. The idea is/was that as those cis females grew older they would immunise the men they had sexual relations with. What the government did not account for is the number of men who exclusively have sex with men and trans individuals who had transitioned after 14.

As such I am asking you to join the thunderclap to help remind our politicians to support the upcoming motion to immunise all individuals from 14 onwards against HPV.

Please share far and wide to help us maximise this.

Hat tip to James Copeland at The Rainbow Project.