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.