New UequalsU campaign

Positive Moving On’s new UequalsU campaign has begun. We have flyers and posters galore so if you run a business in Northern Ireland or the ROI just get in touch and we will pop them in the post. With this new campaign has came time for reflection.

UequalsU was a message that was just beginning to grow when joined up to the PAC Consensus, since then, thanks to the guidance of amazing people like Bruce Richman it has now become an international movement, if anything made this clear it was at the IAC 2018 which took place in at RUI in Amsterdam. An amazing gathering that culminated in one clear message, people living with HIV who are on effective treatment with an undetectable viral load for six months or more cannot transmit the virus through sexual intercourse.

This scientific fact was backed up by yet another study when the results of PARTNER 2 were announced, which as you will probably have guessed showed zero transmissions (for more info see ibase http://i-base.info/partner-study/) .

Altogether the conference was a real celebration of UequalsU and I hope the vivid colours and simple tone of the new campaign mirrors this.

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PrEP, halfway there…

After a long and tedious battle a Belfast HIV clinic are to offer PrEP, while great news for those in need and those of us who have campaigned tirelessly for it, there is still work to be do.

The Belfast clinic is not accessible to all due to transport, this can at best lead to missed appointments, we also have to include voices of the communities more, especially the transgender community, if not then the full potential of PrEP will fail.

For so many years I had a great feeling that we were in a new era, where we could prevent this dangerous virus but I could not rejoice, now I can but only a little because we now need to get it to the people, including those in developing countries, who need it.

The battle is only half over, there is still much work to do, but for now, well done to all.

Stagnant water

Starting Positive Moving On became a lifetime commitment for me, I knew it would be hard, that I would have to make sacrifices or hard decisions to ensure its survival along with the work it hoped to achieve.

Being based in Northern Ireland has had its extra challenges from the beginning giving the religiously dominated society and politics that still exist here yet it was manageable, however since the collapse of Stormont in January 2017 and the inevitability of, at the very least, an uneasy Brexit Positive Moving On’ current and future sustainability has been jeopardised due to political lies, ineptitude and a failure to function. Thankfully PMO has options, one of them being to fold into LWS Limited.

This is a limited company also run by Andrew with directors and shareholders agreeing to take on the social as well as responsibilities of Positive Moving On with the aim of becoming a CIC itself, this may lead to a move South of the border however it will not detour from the groubdbreaking work achieved in Northern Ireland so far, in fact it will only amplify our presence and persistence.

We invite all members of the HIV community to approach us through http://www.positivemovingon.com with their thoughts, hopes or even concerns by this move.

Thinking of you all, keep it real with the L-O-V-E

Andrew xx

Tolerance is a virtue

A bit shook up after my interaction with a very angry man last night who began by calling me a PrEP slapper because I was promoting its use and unclean (among other things) when told during the ensuing conversation that I have HIV, well I conversed he shouted abuse.

There are many incidents of prejudice in this job but the odd time, like last night, an individual tests my nerve because their anger is so extreme and like in this case comes out of nowhere because I have not interacted with the person first, they have came at me simply through observing what I’m doing.

On the few occasions an individual has been that aggressive I have felt as vulnerable as this it has led me to question for a moment if I have the nerve for it all anymore, for a moment, then I think fuck them. If everyone bowed down to those types of bullies society would get nowhere, and also it might sound strange given the subject matter along with how I got here but I love what I do.

Having explained all this the message I want to get out is not one of discrimination or stigma but one of tolerance.

I am a gay, Republic of Ireland born Catholic who historically for that reason alone would most likely have an issue with a loyalist politician, however with the DUP currently withholding marriage equality a lot of people would say I should be against any such politician, lock heads with them and have had quite a few fellow LGBT members turn their nose up at me since a picture was uploaded to social media of me and Paula Bradley, a DUP MLA, having coffee.

Two years ago I had the pleasure of meeting Paula through the course of my HIV work. After this I was invited to Stormont where we had that coffee and spoke about the rise in diagnoses here in addition to our common social goals.

Even though it angers me to feel like a second class citizen by Steven and I being forced to have a civil ceremony, not the recognition of marriage we deserve, putting aside different views and letting go of this anger to work for a common goal was/is one of the most freeing feelings I have ever had.

I left Stormont that day and on the steps gave Paula a hug,

arriving home I said to Steven, what a shame there was no picture of that moment because it will probably be the most surreal and educational of my life, here are two people who have every reason to lock heads because of what some might call indifferences but instead work together and I now get the warmest hug each time I see her (experiences that have left me with nothing but respect as well as admiration for Paula).

If you don’t like PrEP don’t use it, if you have concerns about the side effects, who should pay for it etc then open a constructive dialogue.

If you want to view me as unclean because I have HIV I will give you the facts in hope of educating you but if fear still blinds you and your opinion on these or any other matters remains different to mine talk to me and let’s work together but there is no need to shout me down with a torrent of abuse like a common bully.

Think differently and help the world progress, so long as your being tolerant to other people’s way of thinking too.

From segregation to integration, the road ahead…

By Andrew Goyvaerts

@PMOCICAndrew

From gay bars to peace walls, flag polls and a virtually nonexistent border, for most of life I have witnessed and studied from a social science perspective, segregation, a topic that some are becoming desensitised to in the world we live in today. During my education it focused on one particular area and the people who bombed, shot and tortured stranger, friend, family and neighbour alike with impunity because the “target” either came from “the other side” or was claimed to be a “tout” however those same men and women who terrified Northern Ireland for decades went home, put their children to bed, perhaps with a story or song, cooked dinner, all things their victims along with some survivors could no longer do. Human instinct leads us to conjure pictures of a monstrous life when we see the face of someone who has committed such atrocities because we can be so unwilling to admit that their lives are very much like our own, they have a mother, father, siblings, maybe even an elderly lady who they helped around the home. The headlines called them monsters, terrorists and there were calls for capital punishment to be reintroduced but within their own communities to many these “comrades” were considered local hero’s who could be relied on not just for protection but help with day to day issues.

My personal experience of Northern Ireland comes from summers and holidays spent with my grandmother along with our many relatives in Limavady County London/Derry during my early childhood and nearly 15 years living on/off in Belfast.

In the early nineties peace was in the air and even as a young child I could feel an energy of change, exactly what that change was I didn’t understand but as I found out when my uncle was passing nannies house on the Main Street, it didn’t mean I could stick my head out the window to sing the Irish National anthem were taught in school the week before. It also meant that my Protestant friend across the road and I still experienced looks of dumb-foundry when we played outside the backyard. In an odd way I understood how they were feeling and returned with my own look of dumb-foundry at the barriers that held everyone back so much.

More than twenty years after the Good Friday agreement in NI, integration can still be a touchy subject with some but it is getting there, beautiful community gardens have sprung up that are cared to and respected by all, schools are leading the way with what can be described as a no nonsense approach to integrating education and although peace walls continue to be erected, common goals such as social stability in the face of austerity and growing respect as well as trust between different communities, a new NI, Stormont aside, becomes more and more visible to the naked eye.

Some will wonder what all this has to do with HIV or even the Social Sector, it comes down to the simple interlink of humankind. Whether you wake up as CEO of a multi million/billion pound company or an unemployed person trying to scrape by on the pittance they say is one of the best social care systems, we all wake up by opening our eyes, we will all sit on a toilet at some point in the day and a moment will come for us all when the day begins but we can no longer open our eyes.

Just like in Northern Ireland barriers have been built up within the social, and private sector, that could possibly be hindering the growth of our communities and members (private sector).

Getting to this point of integration in NI has taken reflection, honesty, courage and understanding, all things we should take a moment to do as we move into uncharted territory, whether your country is dealing with a rogue president, Brexit, austerity or civil unrest, we are all entering or have entered the unknown and need each other more than ever. No longer should HIV stand in one corner, cancer in another and the eco system across the way because just like us, as humans, they all interlink. Reduce HIV, Cancer or Diabetes and we also reduce emissions through the reduction of producing and transportation of medicines along with medical equipment so it stands to reason that we should say hello to our interlinking sectors and work closely together so we can stand stronger as we move forward.

Of course this is all the opinion of one person and needs to become an open dialogue but it cannot become survival of the fittest, if it does humanity has failed.

Our Commitment – Positive Moving On

The rapidly changing needs of society mean that a thorough renewal process for the aims of Positive Moving On exists to ensure maximum impact for the benefit of our community. Over the last number of months our vision has been assessed and amended to fit the framework of HIV in 2017. Please click on the link below to read our commitment which outlines the priorities of Positive Moving On.

 

Our commitment – Positive Moving On

“Let’s leave the 80s journalism where it belongs”

(Sent via email to Pink News by Andrew Goyvaerts)

To Whom it may concern,
Society talks about sensationalist journalism all the time, what it doesn’t talk about nearly enough is what happens when the topic at hand is something that will impact on an individual or community. While it might help along the career of a want-to-be Ann Leslie or Jeremy Paxman the industry must ask if it is principled to do so, even if editors view it as ethical.

Sensationalist journalism caught my eye again today when an article by Pink News led with “what is bareback sex and why is it dangerous” 

Let it be pointed out that the general theme has truth, bareback sex carries risk and information of those risks should undoubtedly be passed on to the public, however, let it also be pointed out that abstinence from bareback sex for many of those who are interested in it does not always work out meaning countless people who have read this article could suffer untold effects to their sex life along with their mental health given the concerns it has possibly raised for them, just one reason why directing to organisations that can help anyone effected by media content is beneficial and should be mandatory.
It might be possible to oversee this as something other than blatant sensationalism if the article came across as properly balanced or of educational benefit but that is not the case, instead it came across as a 1980s piece the only purpose of which was to breed fear and perpetuate stigma surrounding sex and STIs due to key bits of information being left out, like if someone living with HIV has an undetectable viral load they cannot pass on the virus to others during unprotected sex.

It also failed to mention vaccines that are available for sexually transmitted infections like hepatitis and HPV (although they were only referred to minutely while the broad context centred around HIV). 
At the same time it appears to have completely ignored the fact that even condoms are not effective 100% of the time. Credit can be given for mentioning PEP and PrEP but is that really enough? Have people living with HIV who were used as an example for an article that essentially seeks to raise site visits for Pink News truly benefited from its publication? 
Inevitably a small number will say “what harm if it prevents someone from being diagnosed with an STI” yet the problem with that reasoning is it throws millions of us who are living with such an infection under the proverbial bus. 

We deal with enough sensationalising from irrational individuals who still think HIV can be transmitted from kissing, we do not need a national publication sensationalising with them. 
Evidently it can surely be said no writer of such an article would intend to cause harm to actual lives which is why the time has come for the journalism community to really evaluate its purpose, does it exist to help or hinder society? Given the social angle of Pink News it would be implorable to do so. 
Let’s leave the 80s journalism and sensationalised stories where they belong and focus on all the up to date information that will educate people not make them afraid. They say fear comes from the unknown but much more of it and harm can come from sensationalised writing along with a lack of all the facts.

An open letter to/about denialists

   By Andrew Goyvaerts 

         

 @PMovingOnCICCEO

Lately all one comes by online, in particular social media, are stories from vaccine denialists. This is not a new trend with everything from HIV, to chemotherapy and the holocaust being subject of theories. When non deniers point out the impact of harm such theories can cause the rebuttal is “we have a right to question” well yes this is very true, everyone has the right to, and should, question things in life however, questioning is not what denialists are doing.
In most cases they are categorically stating their version of events are correct, that the other side is totally incorrect while concocting some cover up or another and completely ignoring facts. 

Scores of people who are living with HIV or contracted an illnesses long eradicated from general society through vaccination, listened to these ignorant views, so deviously constructed and cruelly aired, those people paid for it with their lives or that of their children. 
Does this fact not resonate at all? Is their any part within a denialist that imagines their child, niece, nephew, brother, sister or parent to be one those people who have died because of such untruths?

The answer to those questions we will never know, what we do know for sure is that numerous people have stated denialist theories as reason for failing to seek medical treatment, a lack of which has resulted in serious harm or death. Sure their are those who can say they have followed such theories only to live healthily, lucky them that they were not one of the many more who paid a very costly price. 
Realistically, in the era of technology society is experiencing it will never fully rid itself of stories like one shouldn’t vaccinate or take a certain medication due to mostly unfounded, outlandish claims but it can do a lot more to counteract and target them. 

To begin government should take it far more seriously, in the UKs case it is ultimately the government that will pay the price of an unhealthy person, health boards and trusts along with the uber rich pharmaceutical companies should conduct awareness campaigns to dispel myths that stem from denialism. Individually, people should be conscious of denialist theories in the hope that they do not fall prey in future, while these theories might not effect someone today they very well could tomorrow.
Finally if you are a denialist please realise the anguish you cause by targeting vulnerable people with unfounded or untruthful claims in what can only be described as a despicable act of selfishness. 

“Political system in Northern Ireland turns into a mix of Groundhog Day and Fossetts Circus”

Another deadline comes, another deadline goes and still Northern Ireland sits in limbo. In 1994 after years of conflict that led to more than 3,500 deaths with thousands more injured, the troubles of Northern Ireland came to an end. Paramilitary organisations put down their guns to herald in a new era of peace and reconciliation one where democracy instead of bombs ruled politics. In 1998 the Good Friday agreement was signed paving the way to a power sharing executive in Northern Ireland and with it came a new definition of democracy for the region.
Part of the sharing agreement meant that the largest nationalist and unionist parties would have to share power with the added power of being able to bring down the power sharing executive at a moments notice. This happened in January after a botched energy scheme was exposed and current First Minister (Arlene Foster), who launched the scheme, refused to step aside while an enquiry took place, this in turn led Sinn Fein to pull the plug before a budget had been put in place meaning services have been crippled.
On September 4th James Brokenshire, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland was quoted in one newspaper as saying the window for negotiation talks was “closing rapidly” but two months later that rapidness has turned into snails pace with the electorate left both frustrated and bemused as the political system in Northern Ireland turns into a mix of Groundhog Day and Fossetts Circus.
When will it end is the question on most minds, what the hell am I going to do is clearly the question on James Brokenshire’ mind. Were this to happen in Westminster or Holyrood a speedy conclusion would be inevitable or be front page news across the country and the world. In Northern Ireland though it barely makes the bottom right column of page twenty, unless Bill Clinton flies in for a few hours yet as much as a spectacle as this is for Stormont it is compared to the embarrassment it places at the doors of Westminster, why is that?
Well Theresa May has broken records saying “strong and stable government” while appointing an indecisive, weak individual to watch over one of the most unstable territories on her books.

If it is not a sign of a weak and unstable government, it is a sign of a government that has too much on its hands to cope with Northern Ireland, is it any wonder if this is the case that Sinn Fein see reason to call a referendum?
Wether or not such referendum would be successful is another question but if Westminster can’t handle the workload people will only naturally wonder if there are other options. For now though let’s just wait for the clown car to pull up with two ladies in it.