This week, its National HIV Testing Week, and LUU society Leeds Youth Stop Aids are helping to increase visibility and emphasise the importance of the week, and to help to further advocacy and support of HIV/AIDS causes both in the UK and further afield.
Youth Stop AIDS is a nationwide campaigning organisation fighting to end AIDS by 2030. The Leeds Youth Stop AIDS society has been involved in lobbying local MPs, petitioning on campus, and organising stunts to not only raise awareness but also to put pressure on the government to increase the visibility of AIDs advocacy, as AIDS is the biggest killer of adolescents globally, and the UK government have drastically decreased funding for HIV/AIDS.
Committee member Sam Andersen urges students to get tested for HIV this week – the test quick and easy: merely a pin prick and a 20 minute wait and your results are ready. “HIV doesn’t discriminate and can affect absolutely anyone” he tells me. Youth Stop AIDS’s work surrounds the elimination of AIDS globally, but they also recognise that those who have been diagnosed face enormous stigma, and work needs to be done to ensure those who have AIDs receive all-important support. Sam is HIV positive, and he stresses that “in this country a positive result has no reason to affect your ability to live a long and healthy life – I just want to express how important it is not to forget that if you receive a positive result!’. He believes there is still a great stigma attached not only to HIV, but also in seeking testing, but “in getting tested you are helping to fight this stigma”, Sam assures.
As part of their awareness this week, Leeds Youth Stop AIDS are working with MESMAC to do HIV outreach around bars popular with the LGBT* nightlife scene in Leeds on Wednesday evening, 22nd November, to promote why it is important to get tested for HIV.
Sam urges anyone who has an interest in “making a difference in this country and worldwide ” to get involved with Leeds Youth Stop Aids.
National HIV Testing Week culminates with World AIDS Day on the 1st of December. Sam says: “we are in the midst of working with other societies in the Union to get the most out of the day so we can raise awareness to as many students as possible, so watch this space and keep an eye out for us on the day!”
Find out where you can get tested for HIV in Leeds in drop in sessions running all this week here.