One of the few public figures who is HIV-positive, Matthew Hodson, has been acknowledged in this year’s Independent on Sunday Pink List.
The chief executive for the gay men’s health charity GMFA was the only person on the annual list of 101 top LGBT people that had declared their HIV status.
Speaking to beyondpositive, he said he was honoured to be on the list: “It’s great to see GMFA acknowledged and the work that our whole team does. These are really difficult times for the whole charitable sector, and we’re seeing lots of valuable services cut or lost altogether, so it’s great to get that recognition.
“There are so many wonderful activists, advocates and role models on the list, including many who are actively involved in improving LGBT health. It feels like a great company to be a part of.”
Matthew has worked for GMFA since 1999, and recently became their chief executive. In that time he believes that despite the advances in treatment in medicine, the stigma surrounding HIV is still prevalent.
He said: “I think that there are some within the gay community who even think that stigma is a good thing, as a deterrent from becoming infected. As treatment has improved HIV has become much less visible and that can lead to ignorance and stereotyping.
“HIV is just a virus. It doesn’t have a moral agenda. But people with HIV routinely face the kind of judgements which people with other conditions do not have to. HIV is still singled out from other conditions, and all too often so are people living with HIV.”
Matthew can understand that those judgements can stop people from revealing their positive status, which could be why he is the only HIV-positive person out of the list of 101 people.
“If you’re an entertainer or a business-person I can see why you wouldn’t want to be defined by your status,” he said. “Nobody wants to be defined by their status.
“But at the same time I think there’s a real need for more people to be open about their HIV status, to promote discussion and understanding, to answer questions, address concerns, and challenge myths and prejudice.
“Even so, outing myself as positive was scary, like taking a leap off a high-board.”
2013’s Pink List includes many advocates of equal marriage and improving the rights of trans people, but only Matthew is clearly linked with HIV. He says it marks a change:
“I do think it’s really interesting that a few years back if you’d talked about gay community activism there would have been a lot about HIV.
“This last year has all been about about tackling bullying and marriage equality – both of which I’m actively supportive of, both of which are hugely important – but with the exception of me there was no mention of HIV in the list at all.”
Matthew was placed 54th in the 2013 Pink List, but the Independent on Sunday received over 1,300 nominations. He says he would have campaigned for others including, “Dr Alan McOwan, representing the great team at Dean St, who have done so much to encourage men to test for HIV.
“There’s also David Stuart, who has been tireless in getting the harms that are resulting from gay men’s recreational drug use on the agenda; Michelle Ross, who works at CliniQ, providing sexual health for trans communities; and Kristian Johns, who writes brilliant columns for FS about being positive.”
However, he says that the final list of 101 people is “a great and diverse list of inspiring people, who not only are LGBT but who do such amazing work for the LGBT communities.”