To mark World AIDS Day this year, University College London (UCL) ‘Stop AIDS’ teamed up with Sexpression and Universities Allied for Essential Medicines (UAEM) to put on a jam-packed week of events: Positively Red Week. The aim of the week was to raise awareness among UCL students of both the local and global issues surrounding HIV & AIDS. UCL Student Lindsay Solera-Deuchar has prepared a short summary for /development.

To mark World AIDS Day this year, UCL Stop AIDS teamed up with Sexpression and Universities Allied for Essential Medicines (UAEM) to put on a jam-packed week of events: Positively Red Week.

The aim of the week was to raise awareness among UCL students of both the local and global issues surrounding HIV & AIDS, and so included lots of informative events, as well as giving students the opportunity to take action, and be involved in the Stop AIDS Campaign’s Why Stop Now? campaign.

The week began with a fascinating talk by Professor Deenan Pillay on whether HIV can be eradicated.  He explored two aspects of this: eradication of HIV from the body, and eradication of HIV from the population.  In the latter, he talked about the latest evidence for treatment as prevention, which led on nicely to getting the audience to sign lots of Why Stop Now? action cards!  Following the talk, we joined Medsin London’s Positively Red Pub crawl, to raise money for HIV charity, Body & Soul.

On Tuesday evening we learnt a great deal from Sexual Health Advisor Mark Longman, from Mortimer Market Centre about “everything you ever wanted to know about sex, but were too afraid to ask”!  He dispelled lots of commonly held myths about STIs, and highlighted how much progress had been made in HIV since the 1980s.  He stressed how nobody should have AIDS in this day and age: we have the tools to keep everybody living with HIV healthy.  So Why Stop Now?  Again, lots of action cards were signed.

Dance Society put on an absolutely fantastic Positively Red Week flash mob at lunch time on Wednesday.  Dressed in red, and to the tune of DJ Earworm’s United State of Pop 2009, they put on an impressive dance routine, loved by everybody in the UCL quad.  The Tab London newspaper filmed it…

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sPdmXeeYqL8?rel=0]

Feeling inspired by the flash mob, the onlookers were very keen to sign Why Stop Now? action cards and buy red ribbons, which we sold for the National AIDS Trust.

That evening, we joined with Medsin London once again, this time at KCL, for an inspiring talk by Angelina Namiba, who spoke openly about her experience of living with HIV.  She spoke about stigma, people’s reactions to her status, and of how acutely aware she is of the fact that millions of HIV-positive around the world aren’t as lucky as she is to have good NHS treatment and care.

We incorporated UCL’s Lunch Hour lecture on Sex Work: Myths, Morals and Health by Graham Scambler into our programme on Thursday, in which he discussed the issue of HIV in sex workers.  On Thursday evening, UCL’s Friends of MSF put on a screening of The Positively Ladies Football Club.  It was an inspiring film about a group of HIV positive women inZimbabwewho fight stigma by forming a football club, and showing the world that an HIV positive person can be as healthy and fit as any other.  The same evening, LGBT+ at UCL put on a World AIDS Day themed bingo and speed dating night, helping to increase awareness of and reduce stigma surrounding HIV.

Throughout the week, we distributed 2000 World AIDS Day packs containing information sheets, condoms, lube and information on local testing facilities.  The packs gave information on how students should protect themselves from HIV, as well as an idea of the global picture of HIV & AIDS, and how they could get involved in the Stop AIDS Campaign! Scattered around the campus, we placed A3 posters, each with one of 24 different facts about HIV & AIDS and the extent of the global problem. We also sold red ribbons throughout the week, and got over 150 Why Stop Now? action cards signed.

We hope the UCL Positively Red Week has given students lots to think about!  We really have reached a critical point in the fight against HIV & AIDS, and as students, we can do a great deal in encouraging our government to lead the way in the end of AIDS!  Why Stop Now indeed?

Written by Lindsay Solera-Deuchar

Lindsay Solera-Deuchar