Posts Tagged ‘HIV’

Positive East

Ahead of our World AIDs Day fundraiser on the 1st of December we had a little chat with Alex, the fundriasing officer for Positive East. Alex has been with the charity for 2 and a half years, and works to engage with the local community and encourage them to support the work of Positive East!

What is Positive East’s mission?

All of the charity’s work and services are designed around our mission to improve the quality of life of individuals and communities affected by HIV in East London.

 Can you tell us a little of the organisation’s history? How did it come into being?

Positive East came about at the height of the AIDS pandemic and was born out of an urgent need to address the significant issues that HIV presented in East London in the 80s.  Two organisations were established – London East AIDS Network and the Globe Centre – which then merged in 1991 to better meet the needs of people living with HIV and became Positive East.

What kind of services do you provide?

We offer a wide range of services.  We have an advice line, counselling and peer support services, tailored support groups including our Re:Assure Women’s Group which supports HIV positive women with past experiences of trauma. And of course, we deliver free HIV tests in the local community.  We are a community-led organisation and I think one of the best things about our services is that so many of our programmes and groups are co-delivered by volunteers, many of whom are living with HIV themselves which means they are much better at understanding the issues and barriers that so many people living with HIV still face.

Why is it important that services like yours exist?

It’s so important – even more important than ever really – as less and less funding is being given to the HIV sector.  This is a very significant time in the world of HIV.  There are some great things to celebrate – a dramatic fall in new HIV diagnoses, particularly amongst gay men in London and London has also exceeded the UNAIDS 90-90-90 target (90% of people living with HIV are diagnosed, 90% of people diagnosed are on treatment, and 90% of those on treatment are adhering to their medication).  We can also now say categorically that someone living with HIV who has an undetectable viral load cannot pass on the virus (Undetectable = Untransmittable) and PrEP works as an effective method of preventing onward transmission!

However, although these are fabulous developments, the challenge remains that not everyone and not all communities are benefiting.  HIV stigma is still a reality and there are far too many people undiagnosed or diagnosed late.  There are 50,000 Londoners living with HIV which of course means that HIV support services are still needed.

How has the work that Positive East does changed over the last decade?

We have always worked and will continue to work towards improving the lives of people living with HIV.  We know that there have been incredible developments in HIV medication but unfortunately, society – and its approach to HIV – needs to catch up.  Stigma, isolation and ill mental health are still very real challenges that require bespoke support and there are now fewer organisations that offer similar services.  Without our work, thousands of people living with HIV would not receive support and advice to manage an HIV diagnosis.

 How has austerity affected your service users and your work as an organisation (if at all)?

It has impacted us severely.  Sexual health services, Positive East included, are facing significant funding cuts year on year.  It looks like this is going to continue into the future as well which means we are becoming increasingly reliant on the support of our local community.

 What advice would you give to someone who has been newly diagnosed with HIV?

First of all, you’re not alone.  Positive East is here to support you.  As I mentioned, HIV medication is very advanced which means that someone diagnosed now, who adheres to their medication, can continue living their life as normal with very few changes.  And all of our programmes and services are designed to make the journey towards managing an HIV diagnosis as smooth and stress-free as possible.

 What are the best ways for people to get involved in and support Positive East’s work?

I mentioned that we are facing some fairly significant funding cuts, so we urgently need both people and organisations to support us so that we can continue our work.  You can make donations to the charity through our website – www.positiveeast.org.uk – or you can fundraise for the charity by setting up an online fundraising page.  We cannot thank Dalston Superstore enough for the fantastic support they have shown for Positive East as well – you are so amazing!  We are always looking for volunteers to help us deliver our work, whether that’s staffing our reception desk for a couple of hours or delivering outreach in the local community to raise awareness of HIV.  There are lots of different roles!  You can find out more by emailing our Volunteer Manager at volunteering@positiveeast.org.uk

Most importantly are you looking forward to letting your hair down at the party after the World AIDS Day Red Run?!

YES!  Absolutely!  It’s been really fantastic organising what has now become the UK’s largest World AIDS Day community event and I can’t wait to continue the celebrations with Superstore on the night!

Find the event for our World AIDs Day fundraiser here. All profits from the door price will go directly to Positive East.

Positive East

We’ve been working closely with local HIV charity Positive East for some time now – we’ve run events on two consecutive World Aids Days as well as a successful collaboration with our flagship night Body Talk. We thought it was about time we caught up with our friends at the organisation for a chat about their work in the area…

Can you introduce Positive East to people who might not be familiar with it?

In a nutshell, Positive East is your community HIV charity. We work closely with people living with and affected by HIV in East London, to give them the best possible opportunity to live full and independent lives. We support people affected by HIV, as well as tackling  the issue of late diagnosis and stigma and discrimination. There’s over 8,000 people in London who are HIV positive and don’t know about it.

If you could impart one message to the east London LGBT community what would it be?

Get tested. Our HIV testing campaign is titled It’s Better To Know for a reason. By knowing your HIV status, you can deal with it effectively. We know it can seem quite daunting, but our aim is to make HIV testing as regular activity as going to the dentist. If I can impart one more message, it would be to get involved with events like the ones we hold at Superstore. Funds raised from these events are essential to support our HIV testing programme, as well as our vital gay men’s outreach services.

What does the charity do on a more day-to-day basis?

Support groups and advice work make up two of the biggest sections of our service. The support groups help people re-connect with a community they may have otherwise become isolated from, and our advice workers make sure people living with HIV can sustain their independence at really difficult times in their lives.

We also spend our time organising exciting awareness and fundraising events to support the vast ongoing work of Positive East. 

Why do you think East London, as opposed to any other area in the capital, benefits so much from a charity like Positive East?

There’s a large “at risk” population of people living with HIV in East London, as well as a higher than average rate of late diagnosis. And again a higher risk of those people affected by HIV living in poverty or experiencing homelessness. Therefore, we make our services as accessible as possible to even the most isolated communities in East London. The needs of people living with HIV are constantly evolving; we take these on board, and provide a service which benefits those most in need.

What kind of fund-raising activities do you undertake and why is it so important to the continuation of the charity?

One of our biggest fundraising successes over the last couple of years has been our ever-growing relationship with Dalston Superstore, and other local venues who are kind enough to give us their door money once or twice a year, and we’re on hand to give out condoms and spread the message… Just to give you an idea – each HIV test costs just £10; the support of local East End venues helped us raise £5,000 in 2011. Following cuts of up to 30% to some of our services, these activities have never been more important in helping us continue to support people affected by HIV in East London.

For more information on Positive East find them on Facebook, follow them on Twitter, or e-mail them.