I’m nervous about going to Africa to volunteer on a Rural Healthcare and HIV Awareness project and not just because, as a ginger i’m likely to ignite the moment I step off the plane. It’s a big jump from my comfort zone.
Ten years ago, England lost 3-1 on penalties to Portugal at the quarter final stage of the 2006 FIFA World Cup, The Crown Prosecution Service announced that there was insufficient evidence to prosecute any Metropolitan Police officers over the fatal shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes, the war in Iraq was still unfolding, a heatwave was sweeping the UK and in a quiet corner of Hampshire I had recently turned 20.
It was 10 years ago that I had been tested for HIV following the break up of my relationship with a man, those of you who have read my blogs before will know him as ‘M’, though the positive result would not be returned until the 1st of August.
I was working in a school, I was single, lonely and still trying to figure out where I fitted in to the world. I can assure you, the diagnosis that I was also living with HIV, did not improve my stuttering attempts to find my place.
A decade on, I have been married and divorced, moved around a fair bit and forged myself a new career path. I am also now, among other things, a writer, – how good of a writer is for others to judge, but suffice to say it keeps the gin flowing.
I have been able to get to where I am with the benefit of the NHS, who provide my medication and manage my care at a clinic here in my home town. My relationship with the NHS has not always been easy however. There is still, even among healthcare professionals, a lack of understanding about HIV – something I have written about before.
Today, I went to my doctors to get my vaccinations before my trip to Africa. It was my second attempt. I first visited the surgery several weeks back and when I was asked if I was otherwise healthy, I disclosed that, yes, I was well, my HIV was undetectable and I had a good CD4 count. The nurse’s reaction was palpable, she rolled backwards on her wheeled chair and said “you’re HIV positive?”, “yes, it says so”, I leaned over to the screen “there”, “Oh”, replied the nurse, “bear with me a moment” – she left the room, and I sat there nonplussed for 12 minutes.
She finally returned and informed me that, after consulting with my GP, they had decided they would not be willing to administer the vaccines without a signed letter from my consultant at Sexual Health to assure them that the vaccines would not pose a risk to someone with a compromised immune system. This disregarded the fact I had spoken with my consultant on this very topic, at length, to determine that there would be no issue.
I then had to drive back home after a wasted round trip of 45 miles. The next day I went to my consultant whose response was satisfyingly incredulous – “the vaccines are inactive anyway!” – I left in short order with a signed letter which was sent on to the GP, later that week I got a phone call, an apology and was told to return when convenient to get the injections.
So that’s why I’m sitting here now, with sore arms having had tetanus, diphtheria and polio deposited in one, typhoid deposited in the other. For all my grumbling about the NHS though, I am still immeasurably grateful for it’s reassuring presence.
Others are not so lucky. I’m nervous about going to Africa to volunteer on a Rural Healthcare and HIV Awareness project and not just because, as a ginger i’m likely to ignite the moment I step off the plane. It’s a big jump from my comfort zone.
It’s several thousand miles from home, from Troy, my cat and my gin cupboard, it’s working in rural Africa where medical supplies often run short and clinics don’t have all the equipment they desperately need.
So I want to ask a favour, because I need your help. The project is very short on several items, so I’m raising money and taking donations – either through GoFundMe,- which does have some charges or alternatively Paypal. On the other hand, If you have any of the following items you want to donate, let me know: chewable multivitamins, paracetamol and ibuprofen, games for all ages, – puzzles and blocks, baby blankets, and hand sanitiser.
I’ll collect these donations and use them to buy the desperately needed items, or for funding specific building or gardening projects while I’m there or even to support the home-based care or family empowerment projects, the support group or the education classes.
I’ve already booked my flights, paid to join the project and arranged my travel insurance so nothing you donate will be spent on me or any administration costs.
You’ll be working with me to support these incredible projects in rural Africa where people living with HIV don’t enjoy the same care and medical support that I do.
Please if you can share this, make a donation, even a few quid over PayPal helps and we really can change someone’s life. The GoFundMe link is included, or you can DM me on twitter (@SteveoftheMarch) for my paypal email.
(you can follow Steve on twitter as @SteveOfTheMarch)
You can support beyondpositive’s work,
helping giving those with HIV a voice,
by donating via Paypal