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On Saturday 21st September 2013 we were lucky enough to attend the Positively UK Conference 2013, one of the few times each year that those with HIV and those who work in the various HIV sectors (healthcare, charities, activism, support) get to come together talk about the big issues in HIV.

The conference was held at the Congress Centre, London. After registration and coffee was the opening plenary,we were welcomed by Allan Anderson, CEO of Positively UK. Guest speakers included long time HIV activist/advocate Simon Watney, Professor Jane Anderson and young activist Matilda.

The morning was split into several sessions, we chose ‘Engagement’. The session was lead by Garry Brough of the Terrence Higgins Trust and Susan Cole from the National AIDS Trust. We spoke of our experiences of engaging with healthcare, with local government and shared best practice.

Embedded image permalinkAfter another much needed coffee it was onto ‘Personal Activism’ – the session our editor, Tom Hayes, was running with Silvia Petretti, Deputy CEO of Positively UK. Silvia talked about inspiration, what inspired us and we got feedback from the audience. Then Tom took the group on a whirlwind tour of social media, focusing on Twitter and Facebook – giving some pointers to gain maximum impact on both, as well as creating great blogs. Everyone in the room was asked to create a tweet, a 140 character (or less) message about what #PersonalActivism means to them – with the best ones to be shared during the closing plenary. For some it was their first ever tweet.

Post lunch we split into different groups again, this time we attended the ‘Gay Men’ session. Over the afternoon we discussed a wide range of topics from substance abuse, to online dating, unprotected sex and community/individual responsibilities.

Finally the closing plenary saw Allan Anderson close the day with some feedback from the various workshops and sessions over the day. As he did so a number of the tweets, composed in the Personal Activism session, scrolled past on the huge screen – here are just a small selection.

To campaign to reduce stigma of HIV and encourage young and old to get a HIV test, better now then never – Take me as I am. I’m Positive. I am happy. I live a normal life. HIV is a part of me, but it does not define me –¬†Activism, my way to inform change through proactive advocacy, backed with knowledge, passion and commitmentPersonal activism is a great way of getting your message across… get tweetingProviding the help, advice and inspiration that would have helped me…HIV… it’s my life, my normal, not a problem.Life is too short to hide in the shadow of HIVWe are human beings who need love and support… life can be up or down.

We had a really interesting and inspiring day at the conference, we came out enthused and ready to carry on the fight against stigma and to engage with and improve our HIV services. Positively UK also launched an epetition at the conference – it calls on the UK Government to offer fair and equal access to high quality HIV care across the UK – you can read and sign it here: tinyurl.com/hivpetition

Thanks to Positively UK for organising the conference, and to their sponsors for making it possible.

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