Friday 31 December 2010

How did I do with my predictions for 2010

Well with a minute to go to midnight how did I do with my bloody obvious predictions from last year.

1. There will be a General Election this took place on May 6th

2. The boat race will be won by Oxford....or of those two teams at any rate. Yeah, I was right here too.*

3. The ice and snow currently covering large swathes of Scotland will melt. It did, the last from out the back of my house in Bathgate melted in March.

4. During the Football World Cup in South Africa there will descent from players against at least one official. Take you pick of a number of incidents.

5. There will be new boxing world champions....what you want the divisions, belts etc?...hey these are the bleeding obvious predictions not Nostradamus or some Mayans. Yes.There were quite a few changes check here.

6. Talking of Mayan's somebody somewhere during the year will point out that the end of the Mayan calendar has happened before, and if only some Mayan were creating new far reaching calendars the film 2012 might not have happened. Need to check this one

7. There will be 5 men and 5 women nominated for the best Actor and Actress awards for the 2010 Academy Awards. Yes they were Morgan Freeman, Jeff Bridges, George Clooney, Colin Firth, Jeremy Renner, Meryl Streep, Sandra Bullock, Helen Mirren, Gabourey Sidibe and Carey Mulligan. 

8. David Cameron will smile, look pensive and wave. Yes, he did all of this on the day he walked in number 10 for the first time.

9. Gordon Brown will look glum, look glummer and try not to smirk again. Yes he did the first two quite a lot during the general election. He may have tried and failed with the last during the leaders debates.

10. The Earth will do a complete circuit of the Sun, the moon will make approximately 13.4 orbits of the earth and Vogon Constructor Ships will not demolish us to make way for a Hyperspace least not this year.  Yes, result and not a Vogon in sight.

Of course I also made some considered predictions

So how did they go?

1. Britain will take their best return ever in the Winter Olympics with 5 medals. We'll start with the local pair Sinead and John Kerr who will win their first Olympic medal. Zoe Gillings will snowboard her way to the podium and not to be outdone in form Chemmy Alcock will bring her best to the piste to also lift a medal. On the bobsleigh track two Britons Amy Williams and Shelly Rudman will stand on the podium in the women's skeleton bob. Only Amy medalled, even though it was Gold it was not GB&NI's best performance.

2. The results of the General Election in Scotland give Labour 28, Lib Dems 16, SNP 13, Tories 2. Labour 41, Lib Dem 11, SNP 6, Tories 1. Miserable fail but I would still have guessed more for everyone bar Labour at 7am on polling day.

3. After the result and Gordon falling on his schian dubh, the Milliband brothers tie up most of the remaining Labour MPs nominations between them. Inspired by the Polish President and Prime Minister, or maybe Jedward they decide to run a joint leadership bid. They try to use the name Dedward Milliband, although rumours that Louis Walsh, or PM Cameron are going to either sue or use the 'deadwood' sounding name they decide on Edvid instead. Well they did tie up most of the Labour nominations, some of their supporters lent their nomiation to get Diane Abbott on the ballot. Of course there was no joint leadership bid but they were the last two standing.

4. Andy Murray will win a Grand Slam this year....(I know I said that last year). If he hasn't won the Australian watch out for the US Open. He will reach the semi-finals in all four (if he is fit). Came mighty close to this one in the Austrailian he was leading 6-3, 7-6, 3-0 before Federer came back to win it in 5 leaving Andy in tears. He didn't reach the semi-finals in all four and didn't blame injury for either the French or US exits (although he had a number of trainer calls out in New York).

5. Michael Schumacher will win two of the first three races of the F1 season, but a shunt mid-season brings his comeback to an end when he aggravates old injuries. Oops! Schumey failed to impress upon his return, no major craches ended his career either.

6. Team Sky Rider Bradley Wiggins will ride along the Champs d'Elysee behind his Green Jerseyed compatriot Mark Cavendish to the best finish ever by a Brit in the Grand Tour when he podiums. Brad said himseld he'd done badly in preparing. A couple of crashes cost Cav a close run in the Green jersey. But he won all the sprints he took part in at the line.

7. The Church of Scotland to stop the anti-gay grouping in the church continually breaking the moratorium of silence over homosexual ministers will bring forward a decision on the issue at this years General Assembly. Err no. There are still whispers on this one but it will come to an end at this years General Assmebly, I predict fireworks.

8. Russell T. Davis after bringing back Doctor Who announces that he is try it again. He plans to bring back to the small screen Charlie's Angels with a twist, Charlie is female and the angels are a mixture of male and female eye candy. No word from RTD on this.....yet.

9. A small group of Premier League footballers hold a joint press conference to announce that they are gay. Football fans are surprisingly supportive with the news. Fans of both sets of fans drowning out the homophobic numpties who try and make something of it. Still no out gay footballers in the Premier League and as Qatar have been awarded the 2022 World Cup to Homophobic comments from the FIFA President I don't think it will happen soon, at least not willingly.

10. Strictly Come Dancing sees the return of Arlene Philips as a judge in the new five judges format.Still no Arlene on the main show. She has her own show in development though.

* For the record it was Cambridge that won on 3 April 2010

My Rollercoaster Year

Those of you who know me ought to be aware that I love a big, fast rollercoasters. I really need to go back to the States and experience some of the new rides since last I was there (1996). However, this year has certainly been one hell of a rollercoaster ride with its highs and lows and switchbacks and unexpected turns.

This time last year I was sitting in Bathgate, looking forward to kick starting the local Lib Dems into the General Election year, then onwards to the Scottish Elections and the council elections beyond. The same old routine as laid out by the election cycles. Or so I thought.

Sure enough the year started out in just that manner. On St. Patrick's Night I was selected as the Prospective Parliamentary Candidate (PPC) again for Linlithgow and East Falkirk, with Charles Dundas once again my colleague in the other seat for the local party, Livingston. In the end I came third once more, was agent to Kieran Leach in neighbouring Falkirk (in which campaign I met some new friends). But I was very disappointed on the night that Kevin Lang in Edinburgh North and Leith and Fred MacIntosh in Edinburgh South had done exactly what the party thought was required to win only to no get elected as MPs.

Well eight days after the General Election I had my CV in to start the selection process for the Edinburgh Central seat  for the Scottish elections next May. So there wasn't any real rest between the elections cycles as I started to plot and plan just what I would have to do, first for the seat and then for the list. In the end after another solid 2/3 months of planning and canvassing local members it wasn't to be, but Alex Cole Hamilton had been selected.

So as I started to work for Alex and was settling down to work on the list selection process, which overlapped with the end of Edinburgh Central, I was brought to a sudden halt. Somehow in all the activity of the previous months I had managed to not notice that certain bills were not being paid, kind of major expensive ones. I tried to get finance from the bank but that wasn't happening. I then felt that the only way to deal with this was to return to Northern Ireland and proposed to work that I could continue to work for them from here. With time running out and me having a letter of notice to hand over if there was no decision on that day I was finally given the go ahead to be a home-worker.

So with that then came the task of packing up 9 years accumulated stuff and with the help of Michael completed Operation Evacuate at the end of August. I'd a week to settle in before I started work, but I was also looking for something a little more permanent over here because work, as close friends can attest, was getting me depressed in a major way, even before I moved over.

There then came an email from a friend saying "Have you seen this job?", I applied and found myself up against Michael for what were probably the most angst ridden two weeks in either of our lives. Until I finally was told the position was mine within an hour of a Nationwide conference call for Yes to Fairer Votes as the Northern Ireland Organiser. I just had time to talk to Michael before that call, and he has been a great help and support from that time on.

Since I've got back I hadn't been completely politically inactive, along with Michael we as local Liberal Democrats wrote a couple of responses to consultations from government departments. I've also been involved in the LGBT consultative forum, help establish Delga within the local party, been back across for Scottish conference. As well as attending two party conferences and meeting with others as part of the Yes to Fairer Votes drive.

This year I attended three Pride Parades Edinburgh, Glasgow and Foyle. Somehow I found the time and a person to fall in love with, though sadly that didn't go as I'd hoped. I've also been elected unto my new local party's executive committee as well as keeping up my record of being a conference rep, Sheffield and Birmingham here I come.

So what does 2011 hold?

For a start there is an referendum on May 5th, not the campaigning I expected to be taking up every waking and quite a few of the sleeping moments of my life. But there you are I'm working towards that and looking forward to getting back into the phonebank as people carry on talking to people across Northern Ireland about fairer votes.

After May, who knows. I have no idea what comes next.

Last year I felt that I'd love to find someone I could really connect with that didn't abhor the time I spent with politics and maybe settle down. Seeing as how intermittent my love life has been in the last twelve months it is almost like I am saving myself for that person. Maybe I might get lucky this year and find what I'm looking for in that department. My love life has been a bit of a roller coaster in recent years maybe I just want it to be a gentle punt down life's river from here on. But then knowing the passion I put into things maybe not.

After May I'll be looking for a new job. No idea that that will actually be yet, have an idea what I'd like it to be just need to see if there are openings that I can fill, it may mean a move once more, it may mean staying right here, I just don't know and nobody is able to tell me the answer to that right now. So it looks like 2011 might be another roller coaster year as well.

Stay tuned I'll return to blogging full time in May.

Wednesday 22 December 2010

The "Weekly" Show with Jon Stewart #More4 #Fail

As a political geek one of my secret passions, though I guess not now, is to sit down at 8:30 to watch The Daily Show with Jon Stewart on More4. It's on late enough that if I am in on the evening I will have caught my daily news fix, or if I've done a little campaigning I can often fit in in just after I've finished, then do the news junkie bit.

Rumours that all Americans don't get sarcasm and satire are quickly dispensed by watching this show. The fact it is on Daily means that it covers a lot of ground to fill its slot. Of course some of it is better satirically than other parts of it, but all of it makes you sit up and think.

Therefore this morning when someone pointed out this Guardian story that instead of the four nights of the The Daily Show Tues to Friday with the round up The Daily Show: Global Edition on Monday, we were being restricted to a diet of just the latter I was upset. The reason being that they wanted to schedule more high end American programming. So I wrote the following to Channel 4.

I understand from this morning's Guardian that the Channel is to cut our daily doses of the high-end American satirical take on politics down to the once weekly highlight package the Global Edition.

I'm rather disappointed at this decision as this is the one show I tend to come home to sit down and watch either before or between catching up on the rolling news channels. The Global Edition while invariably picking up what the US editors believe to be the highlights often miss out some of the things that I personally enjoy from the shows through the week. Some of the stuff that has been missed out often leads me to looking more in depth at some of the actual news coverage of that item, because it is often lacking from the UK centric news that is available most readily.

I would ask you please to reconsider this decision.

I got a curtesy email saying someone would get back to me within 7 days. I thought that isn't isn't going to happen, but then I returned from lunch to find this:

Dear Mr Glenn,

Thank you for contacting Channel 4 Viewer Enquiries regarding THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART.

Thank you for your e-mail.  We are sorry to read that you are disappointed about More4's decision to discontinue showing The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, however, you will still be able to view The Daily Show Global edition every Monday night from the new year.

Please be assured your complaint has been logged and noted for the information of those responsible for our programming.

Thank you again for taking the time to contact us. We appreciate all feedback from our viewers; complimentary or otherwise.


Grace Dawson
Channel 4 Viewer Enquiries

Please note that while my initial email did acknowledge the Global Edition I said that in my opinion it was not enough. The Global Edition does tend to emphasis the world news featured more in the week and miss out a lot of the localised American stuff, but often this content is what makes me dig deeper, I'm that sort of creature. Curiosity doesn't kill this cat, it's what I thrive on.

Clearly I have merely got a standard response from somebody trying to clear their inbox before they leave for Christmas. Sadly it failed to address the point I was making. People who take the line that they 'appreciate all feedback from our viewers; complimentary or otherwise', should really learn to listen to that rather than regurgitate standard responses because the name of a programme or product crops up in the right box.

Friday 17 December 2010

It's Friday...It's Almost a (Digital) Christmas

No doubt this afternoon, many of hostelries in Belfast will be full with civil servants, private sector workers and others having a Christmas lunch, post work drink or whatever. Foursqaure, Twitter, Facebook and email or whatever will be going haywire keeping up with the comings and goings of everyone moving about, not just here but everywhere else. This is the last Friday that everyone will be in the office after all.

However, so many of my friends have pointed out this Digital take on the Nativity. Probably a good job that Mary, Joseph, the gospel writers and the others didn't have the digital technology that we do now. But enjoy...

Thursday 16 December 2010

Belfast Giants Days of Christmas

On Tuesday my second cousin and his bride who had minutes before stolen the name of one of his triplet sisters walked down the aisle as man and wife to a live rendition of Mariah Carey's All I want for Christmas is You.

My friend, and fellow blogger, Andrew Reeves and I are both big ice hockey fans indeed he writes up match reports on the Edinburgh Capitals games. Every day getting to work I pass the Odyssey Arena home of the Belfast Giants. They are a sports team that has done a lot to reach across the divides in the new Northern Ireland. So here is their version of the same song, promoting their Christmas games schedule.

Tuesday 14 December 2010

The First Day of Muppet Christmas

Last year the Muppets did a lot of excellent Christmas Songs so I am going to share them with you over the next x day.

Friday 10 December 2010

A Personal Statement - On Tuition Fees

The following is a personal statement I have issued as the former Liberal Democrat candidate for Linlithgow and East Falkirk in the 2010 General Election:

Last night in the House of Commons MPs voted 323 for and 302 against the proposal to increase the cap on tuition fees in England to £9000. If I had been elected on 6th May as the Member for Linlithgow and East Falkirk I would have been joining the 21 Liberal Democrats who upheld the Liberal Democrat party policy not to increase tuition fees but instead to look at abolishing them. This had been stated in our manifesto as well as the personal pledge that many of our candidates in May signed.

The reasons I would have done so are:

  • The party had instructed us to do so, not only in the years before the election, but in motions passed since the general election in most of our federal regions upholding that commitment.
  •  Because personally the increase on personal debt to students is something I personally have been campaigning against since I was an undergraduate fighting the introduction of student loans when they first came in to replace grants.
  •  We would be leaving students with half a hefty amount to pay off when they leave university, which when you take in the interest payments comes to a sizable part of a second mortgage
  •  Even though I would have been representing a Scottish constituency I saw that the cut of the teaching budget funded by the increase in tuition fees would have a knock on effect in Scotland were tuition fees have been abolished.

I take exception to some of the comments made by colleagues in the party I have long considered closely aligned to me on the political spectrum.

Steve Webb wrote on his blog:

"I stood on a manifesto that had literally hundreds of policies and pledges."

I thought a lot of that was aspirations, many of those had caveats dependent on the economic situation, one that didn’t no matter what the financial situation was the promise not to increase tuition fees. He goes on to say that he was elected as part of 'Coalition programme for Government', a programme that allowed for Lib Dems to abstain if the findings of the Browne Report were contrary to our beliefs. That was a concession that was made to our party over this sticky issue yet Steve and 27 others not only didn't take that option, or uphold their pledge but voted for increasing the level of tuition fees.

Lynne Featherstone another blogging MP wrote:

"For some one like me – who has always believed that education should be free – it has been a difficult decision. Sadly, my view of education (free through raising taxation) isn't on the table – or anywhere near it. That vision was ended when Labour introduced tuition fees and the principle of free education for all feel."

Thankfully my colleagues in Scotland didn't feel this way and reversed the decision in Scotland and as a result that was the aspiration of our party nationally to repeat that process in both our 2005 and 2010 manifestos. I also think that because of the general benefit to society as a whole of those who go through Higher (and Further) education that this should indeed be funded, if need be, by increased taxation. The fact that it is not on or near the table would be a reason for me to further vote against.

Last night I heard Vince Cable even say that Scotland had failed to take hard decisions, I beg to differ one that Scotland has taken in that tuition fees should be abolished and from what I understand the main parties are agreeing that they should remain abolished. That is a tough decision made in light of the current situation and one that I was signed up to as a candidate this May, that we, no matter how bad things were would phase fees out.

At least in Lynne’s favour she did have the courtesy to apologise for breaking her pledge.

However, I am most proud of the twenty one, who I feel are erroneously listed as ‘rebels’ they have stood up for what the party believes in, and how the electorate who voted for them believed they would vote. Therefore I salute Annette Brooke, Sir Menzies Campbell, Mike Crockart, Tim Farron, Andrew George, Mike Hancock, Julian Huppert, Charles Kennedy, John Leech, Stephen Lloyd, Greg Mulholland, John Pugh, Alan Reid, Dan Rogerson, Bob Russell, Adrian Sanders, Ian Swales, Mark Williams, Roger Williams, Jenny Willott and Simon Wright.

However, if Nick Clegg things that those listed above and myself are 'dreamers' because of our opposition to increasing tuition fees, I'm glad that I can still dream of a fairer and truly progressive way of funding Higher and, I want to expand it to, Further Education.

I'll not stop dreaming. I will fight on.

Even though this blog may be remaining silent over the next few months due to the nature of my work, I will be keeping up the fight. Recently I was elected as a Conference Representative for my local Liberal Democrat Party. I will not be ripping up my membership card in disgust, I will be pushing up my shirt sleeves and getting down to the business of upholding the things enshrined in the opening paragraph of the preamble to the party constitution:

"The Liberal Democrats exist to build and safeguard a fair, free and open society, in which we seek to balance the fundamental values of liberty, equality and community, and in which no one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity. We champion the freedom, dignity and well-being of individuals, we acknowledge and respect their right to freedom of conscience and their right to develop their talents to the full. We aim to disperse power, to foster diversity and to nurture creativity. We believe that the role of the state is to enable all citizens to attain these ideals, to contribute fully to their communities and to take part in the decisions which affect their lives."

I'll carry on dreaming of achieving the above, but when I'm awake I'll be fighting tooth and nail to achieve it.

Note: This statement is made in a personal capacity due to the fact that I was a Liberal Democrat candidate in the General Election in May. It is not a statement on behalf of either the West Lothian Local Party, who very graciously selected me, nor the Northern Irish Local Party of which I am now a member, nor of my current employers. 

Friday 3 December 2010

Back to the Long Term Blog Park

Ok I had a little bit of an excursion because of World AIDS Day which carried over into the FIFA World Cup announcements yesterday.

But just at this moment my employer* for the last 9 years, 1 month and 1 week is no longer my employer. I am now working full time on the Yes to Fairer Votes campaign.

Therefore as one friend said to avoid me getting out my "Lib Dem thing" and waving it about while I am part of a campaign that is reaching across political divisions I am parking this blog once more.

It will also affect the way I use Twitter and Facebook, somebody else pulled me up on that earlier as well.

I've given my reasons previously more fully in case you haven't already read them.

So long, see you all again on 6th May 2011.

* Yes this is the first time in all the public utterances or writings as a politician either here on this blog or elsewhere that I have actually revealed who they are.

Thursday 2 December 2010

My Thoughts on the World Cup Location Choice...No Not that One

Map of Qatar
Everyone English fan is so up in arms about 2018's FIFA World Cup being awarded to Russia that they have failed to notice something about 2022's.

It is being awarded to Qatar, a nation with a disgraceful human rights record, especially in the area of LGBT rights.

Article 201 of the 1971 Penal Code punishes sodomy between consenting adults (irrespective of sex) with up to five years in prison. There are also incidents of these laws being enforced on non-citizens. Now there are LGBT football fans, I know I'm one of them.

  • What happens if we want to visit the 2022 World Cup, are we to leave our partners behind? 
  • Are we to sleep in separate beds, rooms, hotels, cities? 
  • What if in celebrating a goal or victory we forget where we are and get over affectionate even for just a fleeting second in full view of a policeman? 
  • What if we turn up married or civil partnered with passports that say so, wearing matching rings? 
  • Would we get lifted as we arrive and carted off to prison?
Gay Football Supporters Network

Qatar is not just homophobic it is a gay criminalising state.

If we are imprisoned I bet the cell wouldn't have the multi-million pound air conditioning that the stadia (as yet unbuilt) that will spring up in Qatar.

Bid logo
There is also the problem that Association Football does not currently have any 'out' professional players. There are suspicions that a number of players may be in the closet. Now would be a good time for those players to come out and stand up for the LGBT fans from around the world, but more important the LGBT community in Qatar itself. As we don't have a spokesman from within the game, it will be up to the LGBT fans and their friends to take this issue further. But I guess we may not have any players coming out, if they have a hope of playing in the 2022 World Cup, even though us gay supporters need a hero, one of 'the family'.

We should start by boycotting Qatari products:

(feel free to provide more in the comments)

Personally I'd not feel safe travelling to Qatar, especially if I was doing so with a partner, I'm just too affectionate. I don't even think I should even contemplate watching the games on television. So I guess I'll not even be watching the 2022 World Cup, even on TV, thanks to decision of FIFA today. Wonder what I'll end up doing instead?

Wednesday 1 December 2010

World #AIDS Day - #ActAware: Confession Time

I have a confession to make.

I don't always practise safe sex. In fact bareback sex does feel so much better than using a condom.... the time.

However, to be frank it is one of the reasons that so many people, especially gay men, are still getting infected day by day.People often ask, how can people put themselves in risk of affection, often that is one of the major reasons, it feels the time.

There is of course then the wait of three months to get outside the window period, the anxious walk to a clinic to get tested, and the wait for the blood results and then the wait for the next time, just to be sure. But at the time it feels good, but that doesn't make it right to do so and here is a personal realisation as to why.

See the thing is that even though I campaign to end the blood ban, I really want it to be lifted in a way that I personally will find it very hard to give blood, not because of my sexual orientation but because of my how I go about it. I have had sex with men who are living with HIV (three of them in total, that I am aware of, though only two told me at the time).

The one of those who didn't tell me, contacted me rather embarrassed 8 months after we last had sex. His first comment was "I have something to tell you". Before he revealed that he'd just been diagnosed with HIV and probably was living with it at the time we were together. Thankfully for me he had failed to answer my questioning in a positive way when he asked for us to forget about the condoms. He also changed his answers when he'd asked again some weeks later.

I'm big enough, ugly enough and informed enough to make my own decisions about who I sleep with, providing I'm aware of the facts. With the two who were honest there are two things that I cannot provide:
  1. I cannot offer him anal sex without a condom being involved
  2. I cannot be 100% sure that any sex we have is safe (there is no guarantee of that)
I'm aware of my current HIV (and other STIs) status, just two weeks ago my bloods came back negative, as did my swabs. But that is as much through luck as good personal responsibility.

Here's the thing, if I were to fall in love with someone living with HIV, I would want to love them emotional, intellectually, spiritually and sexually. Of course anyone in such a circumstance would also be facing the same two criteria above. I trust on point one they would love me enough to respect that is the case, I hope for point two that they realise I love them enough to want to be part of them, even with that one small chance of doubt every time.

There has of course been a lot of jumping up and down in the gay press about Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) benefits from the use of Truvada before infection. However, this is a costly way to counter the issue and

"For now, and for the foreseeable future, condoms remain the most effective, easily available and cheapest way of preventing HIV transmission. As this trial suggests, Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis is going to be an addition to condom use rather than a replacement of it."

So therefore as you've seen today through my blogging the message this World AIDS Day the message of Act Aware really is one that I am taking on board. That's why I'm protecting myself and others from HIV infection.

It is why I have taken this day away from parking my blog to make these three posts going from the overall picture, through my local situation and friend, to this very personal post. Hopefully through something I have said today, someone, somewhere, maybe even you, will take a number of steps to Act Aware in your own life.
  1. Get tested (and keep getting tested) it may seem like a trauma to do it, but the knowledge of your status at regular intervals is far better than finding out late on you have an issue.
  2. Practise safer sex always use a condom in casual relationships
  3. Never rely on self disclosure from someone else. As I mentioned above 1 in 4 people living with HIV cannot disclose to you that they are, because they themselves do not know. Respect your own body and health, you are only in control of that, not anyone else's.
If you do live in Northern Ireland and are concerned about HIV contact the confidential helpline number 0800 137 437.

Or make a visit to the Genito Urinary Medicine (GUM) clinics at the following locations:

The Royal Victoria Hospital, Belfast 
The Causeway Hospital, Coleraine 
Altnagelvin Hospital, Londonderry 
Daisy Hill Hospital, Newry

Condoms are readily available through chemists, public toilets or even in health packs at most gay venues. So even if you pull on a night out there is no excuse to not be prepared.

World #AIDS Day - #ActAware: HIV in Northern Ireland

Yeah it will come as shock to some people in Northern Ireland, but yes there are people living with HIV here in Northern Ireland.

You can't tell who they are by looking at them.

You are not at risk from every day contact with them.

The HIV Support Centre in Belfast says that every week there are two people newly diagnosed with HIV. That is two more people who will be living with HIV in their bodies, two more sets of family and friends that will be living with someone they know very well having HIV.

Of course it is up to the individual in question as to whether s/he lets their family or friends know their status. There is still a stigma attached to HIV, which is almost as much of the ignorance from the 80s instead of what is known now about the disease. In fact it is possible to be in a full relationship with someone living with HIV and practice safer sex and to remain negative yourself*.

That stigma is something that is hard to overcome. It only will be broken down if more people living with HIV are courageous enough to let others know. Showing others that they can live a perfectly normal live.

My friend Michael is a trustee of The HIV Support Centre and he is adamant that the stigma of HIV is best lifted when people are aware that people living with HIV are all around them. Until recently this was even an issue with The HIV Support Centre itself, referring to itself merely as 'The Centre'; the centre of what, one might ask. I recently witnessed him helping lift that stigma one person at a time.

He was talking to a friend he had known for some time, the conversation got round to HIV and his work as a trustee. Standing there listening I had an inkling where that conversation was going, especially once the friend seemed shocked that there people living with HIV in Northern Ireland, the friend was not someone you'd expect to be ignorant of such facts. Michael, eventually asked the question, "Do you know anyone living with HIV?". The friend replied "No". A hand was proffered with the words, "Hello, I'm Michael, I'm living with HIV." It was a brave step even to a friend of some standing, and I'm glad to report he shook that hand and carried on asking more questions, over to the side I was fighting back the tear ducts**.

There is also the stigma of attending a GUM clinic. Some people think that everyone in there is carrying some STI if not HIV. But not every car that you see in a garage needs work doing, some are just being serviced and getting looked over ahead of an MOT, getting tested regularly is just like that. Far better to know what your status is, negative or otherwise at regular intervals that to find out too late that there is something wrong. Late diagnoses means that sometimes the medications may not be effective for the treatment of HIV.

Scarily 1 in 4 people living with HIV are as yet undiagnosed. Scarily of that set 39% are diagnosed so late that they need to start HIV treatment immediately, and 30% were diagnosed so late that there was a real risk of developing a potentially fatal illness. When there are apparently to 1 in 20 of the UK wide gay male population that are living with HIV that can lead to nightmares. Therefore the rule of thumb is treat every encounter the same, be safe and respect your own body. If someone refuses you because you want safer sex, don't give in to peer pressure.

The message this year is ACT AWARE.

Are you aware of your HIV status?

If you're not but are sleeping around whether with people of the same sex or the opposite, may I advise you to go and get tested now and regularly and be aware.

If you don't believe how important that can be I'll advise to wait until my next blog post.

* Of course there is no such thing as 100% safe sex, but if you love someone you decide for yourself what you want to do providing you are in full knowledge of the facts.

** Yeah I tend to well up quite a lot.

World #AIDS Day: #ActAware

I know that I parked this blog a couple of weeks ago, but there is something today that is too big, that is beyond politics that I felt compelled to draw your attention to. Today is World AIDS Day. Here are some of the UK statistics from their website.

More people than ever are living with HIV in the UK and each year new infections occur.

People living with HIV in the UK

  • The number of people living with HIV in the UK has trebled in the last 10 years
  • More than 90,000 people are living with HIV in the UK
  • Over a quarter of people with HIV in the UK are undiagnosed
  • About two thirds of people living with HIV are men and a third are women
  • Over half of all people living with HIV are aged between 30 and 44, but there are significant numbers both of young people and older people now living with HIV
  • One in 20 gay men in the UK is living with HIV

New HIV cases in 2008

  • 7,298 new diagnoses
  • The two groups most affected remain gay and bisexual men and black African heterosexuals.  Three-quarters of people diagnosed were among these two groups.
  • 2,760 new diagnoses among men who have sex with men
  • 2,790 new diagnoses among people from black and minority ethnic communities
This year they are running a campaign to be aware. Be aware of your HIV status. The harrowing fact that I highlighted above is that a quarter of people living with HIV are not aware that they are infected.

I have to admit there have been times that I have gone for my regular checks that I have been worried that I might have been at real risk of being infected. Indeed one of my recent tests I was anxious. I had experienced the primary HIV infection (or sero-conversion illness) symptoms, at about the right time scale when I could have been exposed. However, my tests did come back negative.

Knowing your status is important whether you are gay or straight especially if you are engaging in an active sex life with multiple partners, or if you are in an open relationship. Get into the habit of going regularly (every six months) to your local genitourinary medicine (GUM) clinic or with your local GP. The local GUM clinic for me now is up at the Royal Victoria Hospital, their staff there carried out my last test.

The message today is:

Be Aware
Be as Safe as you can be
Be Responsible for you own health


The term living with HIV often only refers to those who actually have HIV. But a friend of mine recently said that those of use who know a family member, friend or partner who has HIV are also in a sense living with HIV. We deal with some of the effects it has on the person that we love. If we carry on living with their HIV we do not love them any less, we may show our love for them even more through the practical things we do for them and the support we give them to help them carry on as normal.

In that sense I am someone who is living with another friend's HIV and I want them to know that I am thinking of them as ever today.