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11 years I became Mummy & Daddy

11 years ago today I said goodbye to B, my child’s father, and I unexpectedly, suddenly became both Mummy and Daddy to J.

J was just 13 months old then, and that meant that those early days were cruel and surreal; J was babbling and would point at people who resembled Daddy questioning ‘Dadda?’, there would be a knock at the front door and J would point ‘Dadda home!’.

As J grew older, he’d come home from school telling me how another teacher had physically grimaced when he’d said, so matter of factly as children do, ’my Daddy is dead’. I have always instilled frank and honest conversation between J and I; we do use the word ‘dead’ not the confusing ’gone away’. We sit. We talk. We listen. We love.

J is now 12 and understands that B died of an AIDS related infection. J is also now aware that I am living with HIV. J has age appropriate knowledge, and an awareness of HIV and sexual health in general far surpassing many adults I meet in the training and workshops I deliver!

About four years ago, hearing J explain, yet again, that people ‘don’t know what to say, that’s normal Mummy’ sparked something in me. Knowing that that reaction just wasn’t good enough, nor acceptable and that the adults involved in, and working within J’s life, those who encountered J, should be able to have conversations, not avoid conversations and at the minimum be able to confidently signpost to support; do anything but never ignore them or make that person feel that they can’t talk openly about what is in fact their day to day life. 1 in 20 children in the UK have experienced the death of a parent.

I knew I had to do something.

These interactions J encountered spurred me on to found Think2Speak. To create a hub of support, training and advice to help people who work with young people tackle those conversations that many grown ups would rather avoid, to help young people be able to talk about what’s bothering them, whatever that may be, and to help people have a space where they can talk about their family, their network and their experiences.

What J and I do both believe, and is the founding principal of Think2Speak – is that talking about ‘these things’ whatever ‘these things’ may be – NEVER makes it worse! Grown ups can learn so much from the child like qualities of ‘chatter’, of simply having a conversation, losing the motive that often drives adult conversation, never assuming to know what’s bothering a young person..

Think2Speak has enabled so many conversations. I am so proud of each of the schools that have embraced our proactive, preventative approach to wellbeing by becoming Think2Speak Members, safe in the knowledge that our counselling and therapy services are there for them when needed.

I burst with pride that in our first twelve months the team and I have:

  • Worked with over 2000 young people
  • Trained over 400 teachers, staff and carers/parents
  • Delivered over 350 counselling sessions
  • Helped people talk about grief, domestic abuse, HIV, puberty, PSHE, emotional wellbeing, mental health, sexual health, self harm, depression, anxiety, stress, change and loss and the list goes on.

As both Mummy and Daddy to J, I am so proud that Think2Speak is able to support other young, people just like J, and families just like ours, and not just within schools.

With your help, we can help so many many more! Click here to visit, share what we do and make a donation to help us support even more young people who need someone to talk to!

Thank you!

Lizzie @fashionthing

‘You’re a star’ BK 7th June 1972 – 29th March 2006

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7 things I learnt when someone dies.. 

Cheery title I know, and perhaps I wouldn’t read on if you’re wanting a joyful, fun blog post.

I’m feeling melancholy after I watched ‘Holding The Man’ last night, a wonderful story of true true love. A story punctuated by HIV, resulting in death. It rushed me back to hospital wards, the rooms to one side where you’re put when they know the inevitable is not far away. It also made me reflect and realise some things..
Grief. Loss. Bereavement. Someone dying. Dead. Passed away. Passed on – whatever the f that means. All such strange words that get thrown around when its on the horizon or when it happens. When you’re told to go have a sugary tea. Like that’ll make everything ok. Seriously?

When I was a child my paternal grandfather died after being ravaged by the f-cking ‘C’. My memories are of his decline and then pointing out a person shaped cloud from the back of the car as we left his funeral. I thought it was a cloud ‘Grandad’ lying on a cloud being taken off to heaven.

My paternal family have in particular been significantly devastated by the big C. Two uncles in swift, yet such cruel ways; C reducing towers of men to carcasses, there’s no other way of putting it. Barbaric, cruel deaths.

By contrast, B looked like a prime athlete having a sleep. In the couple of hours leading to when B died, I remember the ‘room’ we were moved to was huge. He looked almost insignificant laid in the bed in the middle of the room. A nurses station at the back behind glass. The sounds of the god damn machines, their shrill noises sounding, deafening alarms of what we all knew was happening. That noise of heart monitors, in a hospital, on TV, wherever, takes me right back there, even if just for a split second every single time.

His death was so very sudden, yet ultimately, bar the machines, I remember it being peaceful. I think I’ve chosen to selectively remember it this way, instead of dwelling on the reality of the ‘death rattle’ chest sounds, and his heart beating so hard swelling up between his ribs until it couldn’t beat anymore.

There are some things though that I wish ‘someone’ had told me..

1. It’s a trauma

Get counselling if you can. However it happens, you will need to talk it through at some point. Death. Grief. Loss. They’re all traumas. Don’t bottle the words up. If you can’t say them, write them down. And that’s no 2.
2. Write it down

Your head will be a mess. Write everything down – stuff the nurses said, things the funeral director asked/tells you to do, what BT need to change account names and who you spoke to. Write down stuff you want to remember about them – you’ll think you’re forgetting them when you can’t remember. Favourite places, jokes, aftershave, pudding, chocolate bar – (Dairy Milk Fruit and Nut was B’s)
3. Crying

You’ll cry tears like you’ve never cried before. And then they’ll stop and you’ll be numb. And then random things will turn that tap back on. And that’s OK! Happy tears will come eventually too.
4. Relief/guilt

It is the strangest sense of emotion when you’ve been told someone doesn’t have long left, and you’re held in a suspended state watching their every move. Every indicator trying to decipher the timeline. With B, and both my maternal grandparents, we had the opportunity to sit alongside them in a hospital room for those final hours, kiss them, talk to them, tell them we loved them. With all three, at some point I just wanted them to stop fighting, to let them give in and be still. This thought, each time of course, eats you with guilt, wanting to end their suffering, and selfishly appease your own. Yet conversely, not wanting them to go anywhere, willing them to get well and defy the medics.
5. The last words

I think this one can eat you up if you’re not careful. Your last words to them, the last thing you remember them saying. You might not think it at the time, but it doesn’t matter.

B’s last spoken word was ‘Chocolate?’ to the ICU nurse – who couldn’t give him any as they hoped to operate before events changed. More significant in my memory is he waved J goodbye. The last gesture or controlled movement he made before he died 24 hours later.

When my maternal grandfather had a catastrophic stroke, I couldn’t remember the last conversation we’d had. We’d been at their house just days previously and he’d have waved us off as he always did. Looking back the words weren’t important, it’s the feeling and thoughts when I think of such an amazing man that glow.

With my maternal grandmother, we had about a week of ‘she’ll not make the night’ in hospital. Defiant to the end, she was totally going on her terms not theirs. I really struggled watching her last hours. Too many of the noises, sights and sounds and I could not face it yet again. I said my goodbyes and left while she was still fighting. She died about half hour later as I’d just arrived home back to J.

6. Get rid of stuff when you’re ready

There’s no right or wrong to it. It’s harder when it’s not only your decision though. With B, I was able to do it at my own pace. Everything of his moved house with us 8+ years ago and gradually bit by bit, I’ve gone through the boxes of ‘stuff’ and it’s reduced down significantly.

It was very different when it was my grandparents and there was a skip on the drive, and a deadline of when the house had to be empty by. It became a very practical, clinical process. Some of my most prized possessions on my shelves & walls are simply that because of their connection to my beloved grandparents.

7. Some friends will surprise you.

Some friends won’t know what to say/do. Some will try anyway, some won’t. Two friends made, to them probably insignificant gestures, after B’s death, that I remember with such fondness whenever I think of those friends even now ten+ years later. If someone is hurting, send the card, send the flowers, pick up the phone. Drop off a casserole for them. Don’t cross the road to avoid them. Don’t say nothing. Please.

Filed under: HIV
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2016 Roundup

Well 2016 has been quite a year – and, as per last year, I’ve taken the opportunity to reflect and record some of the advocacy work that I’ve done in the last twelve months. Trying to choose a sole image to represent each month has been so very difficult, yet joyful. 2016 – I’ll never forget you.

Global Advocate To Watch List
16 Advocates to Watch list published. Read more.
Applied for AIDs 2016 scholarship

Interviewed by The Guardian
Read the article here.

Interviewed by Radio Lincolnshire
Chatting life, HIV and Think2Speak with Melvyn Prior
Beyond Positive Pub crawl
Drinking and laughing the night away by topping up the heterosexual quota on the Pub Crawl!

Awarded AIDS2016 Scholarship
Awarded and accepted full scholarship to AIDS 2016 in South Africa.
International ‘Inspirational Speaker’ 
Flew to Zurich for pharmaceutical company Actelion’s global annual team meeting as their invited ‘Inspirational Speaker’ to share my experiences as an ‘Expert Patient’ to help shape their 2016 plans for PAH patient engagement- read more.

£3500 for Macmillan
For the second year, as a family, we organised The Gainsborough Ball raising over £3500 for Macmillan. Ok so not HIV related but a worthy event to mention! Macmillan’s support has, and is currently, helping friends & family get through some very dark days.

Crawling & Climbing
A group of us decided to add climbing to crawling pre the second Beyond Positive Pub crawl of the year. It’s fair to say – it wasn’t my forte but watching the boys truly embrace the walls, and crash mats, was a great day!

Filmed by the BBC
Watch this space – due out in April 2017…

Trip of a Lifetime – South Africa
Memories & experiences which will last a lifetime. Amazing experiences, brilliant company, and crikey did I meet some amazing people doing truly inspirational work in the fields of HIV/AIDS from every corner of the globe at AIDS2016 South Africa. Read more.

Filmed for BBC3
Things Not To Say to Someone Who’s HIV Positive – watch the clip here

Accepted Role as 1 of 2 Patient Voices 
NHS England Clinical Reference Group (HIV) Patient and Public Voice – Read more.

#T2SLive Conference
When Think2Speak launched in 2015, I decided a conference was a great way to get ‘us’ on the map for 2016. Well we hosted #T2SLive gathering over 200 staff working with young people from all over Lincolnshire and our neighbouring counties to discuss emotional wellbeing. Read more.

House of Lords
I was honoured to be Terrence Higgins Trust’s invited speaker, alongside their CEO Ian Green, Lord Fowler and the Health & Innovation Secretary, Nicola Blackwood MP, at the charity’s Annual Parliamentary Reception at The House of Lords. Read more.

World AIDS Day
A whirlwind of interviews and articles from Radio4 Today, Standard Issue to London Live amongst others. You can hear part of the Radio4 interview here.

To put it politely, I’ve completed the year exhausted and pensive. Advocacy is only one of the many facets that make up my life, and doing this round up has been a great way to reflect and remember. To lay out some of the amazing opportunities, the things I’ve been able to experience and achieve, and the wonderful people I’ve met, had alongside me and got to know along the way. To each and every one of you, that has supported me, been there for me and believed in me – thank you.

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AIDS2016: Loving, living, HIV, Durban, South Africa & Me


AIDS2016 Durban Scholarship Recipients

Earlier this year I applied for, and was honoured to accept, a full scholarship to enable me to attend the International AIDS Society’s biannual 21st international AIDS Conference, hosted by South Africa in Durban. With flights, hotel and per diem allowance provided I grabbed the opportunity. The BF also grabbed the opportunity to join me there and we got booked onto the same flight! Turns out he makes a great PA – thanks SP!

Before we left I’d poured over the conference schedule and become quite overwhelmed with the breath of content, sessions, events and talks I could attend. The handy mobile app helped me star and prioritise the sessions that I really wanted to be at – at several time slots there were 3 or 4 concurrent sessions so I had to prioritise and choose carefully where to spend my time. The venue was HUGE – equivalent to the whole of NEC I would guess with 3 main areas; the main conference halls, the exhibition hall (mainly pharma) and then the Global Village, bursting with grassroots organisations from all around the world showcasing their responses to HIV in their communities. Interestingly to note – the general public can visit the exhibition hall and the Global Village – you do not need a delegate pass to access these! This was news to us upon our arrival and meant that the BF could see and access so much more from the conference than we ever imagined. There were many many sessions and workshops every day in the Global Village, all available to the general public. So anyone wanting to attend AIDS2018 in Amsterdam – do it – the general public can access loads of the conference!

I felt distinctly different ‘vibes’ from the three areas of the conference; the main conference rooms were clinical, straight laced and had an ‘ivory tower’ feel often devoid of actual positive people on their panels, the exhibition had the £££ of the pharmaceuticals and their swish exhibition stands and collateral to boot, juxtaposed with the Global Village, with their passion, their stories and their shoestring musings to convey on a global platform their amazing work and needs.

I’ve pick out a handful of my musings from a selection of the sessions I went to in both the main venue and the Global Village. I’ve notes from so many more to still formulate into something more cohesive.

LIVING2016 Pre-conference

Engagement Tour: Blue Roof Wellness Centre

Red Ribbon Awards

Condom Couture

The People, The Faces, The Stories

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The people, the faces, the stories of AIDS2016

Personally one of the greatest outcomes from the conference was the people that I’ve met. Many advocates and activists that I’ve followed on social media for many years became real people to embrace, and I met their friends, their colleagues, their projects and their stories. It was refreshing to attend a conference and not to be sold to! Attendee wanted to genuinely engage with each other, exhibitors wanted to share, storytelling was rife and so very powerful.

I am worried though. I kept coming back to the clear lack of mental health support available to my fellow peers, activists and advocates. No one was talking about the pressure, the anger or the wellbeing of the activists and advocates, the toll that can take on people, in their individual communities or throughout the conference as a whole. Self care was wholly lacking. This concerns me. I’ve seen in many a time here in the UK, it needs talking about. It needs addressing.

On our last night in Durban I was invited to have dinner with Mark King, the very gent whose ‘Top 16 Advocates to Watch in 2016‘ list I’m sure, in no small measure accounted for the scholarship I was given to attend the conference. Around the table of guests, there were amazing women from USA, Mexico and Nigeria all individually achieving masses in their communities, regionally, nationally and globally – all equally enthused and exhausted from a full on week on the conference circuit! The conversations were abundant and enlightening and it really was the most perfect evening to end the week on and I can’t wait to see many of those faces again in Amsterdam 2018!

Read more from my time at AIDS2016 here:

LIVING2016 Pre-conference

Engagement Tour: Blue Roof Wellness Centre

Red Ribbon Awards

Condom Couture

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Condom Couture by Adriana Bertini


Entering the Global Village you were greeted by sounds, sights and colour truly reflecting the ‘Global’ in the entrance sign! First thing I spotted was the row of mannequins, each wearing the most amazing dresses in rues of reds. As you get closer you realise – each is created from condoms.

Adriana Bertini is an artist living in Brazil who takes old or faulty condoms and uses them to create art. She goes into schools, gets the young people used to handling and talking about condoms, whilst smashing the shame around carrying them, all while together creating amazing works of art!

The dresses provoked much conversation and I was thrilled to catch the fashion show of the dresses on the last day of the conference as the final session on the Global Village mainstage.

‘Adriana Bertini, an artist living in São Paulo, Brazil, transforms expired or defective condoms into raw material to be used to make pieces of art. These frames, sculptures, and brightly coloured women’s dresses are intended to raise awareness and inspire reflection about condom use. On another level, Bertini hopes that, by using the very material at the centre of effort to prevent HIV/AIDS to create something new, she can inspire reflection, foster discussion, and challenge taboos.’ Read more on Facebook.

Read more from my time at AIDS2016 here:

LIVING2016 Pre-conference

Engagement Tour: Blue Roof Wellness Centre

Red Ribbon Awards

The People, The Faces, The StoriesThe People, The Faces, The Stories

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Red Ribbon Awards

The Red Ribbon Awards held a ‘Special Session’ to congratulate the 2016 Red Ribbon award winners and to celebrate the vital work being done by these grass level community based groups.

Speakers at this one-hour Special Session were:

  • HRH Princess Mabel van Oranje of the Netherlands
  • HRH Princess Tessy of Luxembourg
  • Former President of the Republic of Fiji, H.E. Epeli Nailatikau,
  • UNAIDS Deputy Executive Director, Jan Beagle,
  • Minister of Health and Child Welfare of Zimbabwe, David Parirenyatwa
  • Moderator: Mary Ann Torres, Executive Director, ICASO

I jotted down some quotes from the speakers:

‘HIV is a development issue, a rights issue and a respect issue. These awards honour those innovators tackling the global epidemic one community at a time.’ Jan Beagle

‘No person should be infected by a virus that can be prevented.. We must leave no one behind. We must care for each other.’ H.E. Epeli Nailatikau

‘Women and girls are carrying the burden of care globally. Grassroots organisations are making the difference for this group.’ HRH Princess Tessy

‘Governments worldwide now know they can not function without the work of grassroots. We underestimate what they do. We need to return and revisit what you are all doing. Truly value it and get funs to enable progress.’ David Parirenyatwa

‘If we don’t prevent, we will not win this war. If you office is flooded, the first thing you do is close the tap, not scoop the water.’ David Parirenyatwa

HRH Princess Mabel van Oranje of the Netherlands made two points in her speech:

  1. There will be no end to the epidemic without grassroots. She spoke of grassroots being taken for granted and that ultimately change will only happen with the work of these groups we’re acknowledging (as Red Ribbon Award winners). These groups are delivering the actual solutions and we need to put money where our mouths are – ‘it is these guys doing the work, not the UN, not the top levels who take the majority of the cash.’
  2. We must prioritise girls and women. The numbers are shocking. Princess Mabel spoke at numerous other sessions championing the need for prioritising girls and women.

Read more about the ten Red Ribbon Award winners here.

Read more from my time at AIDS2016 here:

LIVING2016 Pre-conference

Engagement Tour: Blue Roof Wellness Centre

Condom Couture

The People, The Faces, The StoriesThe People, The Faces, The Stories

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Engagement Tour: Blue Roof Wellness Centre



Conference delegates had the option to sign up for one ‘engagement tour’ – there were so many projects and clinics I wanted to visit, but chose to visit the Blue Roof Wellness Centre. The AIDS2016 website pitched it as follows:

‘The Blue Roof Wellness Centre was designed and built by Keep a Child Alive (KCA), an organization founded in 2003 by AIDS activist Leigh Blake and 15-time Grammy Award-winner Alicia Keys, as an emergency push to get life-saving HIV medication to children needlessly dying of AIDS in Africa.  

The centre currently provides comprehensive HIV services to 2,319 adults, adolescents, and children living with HIV. It offers a variety of services, including: HIV counselling and testing (HCT), HIV care and antiretroviral therapy (ART), psychosocial and adherence support (including specialised psychosocial support for children and their caregivers, as well as a youth support group), nutritional support such as hot, nutritious meals, tuberculosis (TB) screening, cervical cancer screening, and linkages to substance abuse counselling. 

With the new Zoe-life management and input the center is moving towards a vision of a child- and adolescent-focused wellness center. It has been introducing new elements, events, services, and activities to draw children and youth into the Blue Roof, where they not only receive a wide range of services, but where some of the critical drivers of the HIV epidemic can be addressed in their lives, within a safe environment which is equipped to best meet their holistic needs.’

We were driven out to the centre by minibus through areas of massive disparity; whizzing past the plush Audi & VW salesrooms, through the docks and factory areas before arriving in the Wentworth Township neighbourhood. The clinic is like fort knox, tucked away in a corner, in a secured compound with no view in whatsoever from the outside. In stark contrast to the exterior, once the electric gates slammed behind us, we were welcomed into what felt like a family home. We weren’t allowed to take any photos, to respect the privacy of everyone there. The photos above I’ve sourced online.

The centre is vast, full of light, so spacious and welcoming. There are treatment rooms, rooms for blood work, counselling rooms, pharmacy, huge drug stores, a canteen, classrooms, nursery rooms, the list goes on.

At the time we visited there were very few patients (mid morning), most opt to get in early, are seen very quickly, collect their medications and then they’re off to continue their days. The clinic sees around 100 patients per day, 5 days a week. We were told of the epic journeys many of their patients go through to attend the clinic far away from there home areas to avoid being seen at a ‘HIV clinic’.

The clinic have a huge battle on their hands to tackle stigma – for so long they have been solely known as a HIV clinic. They are now trying to build a reputation beyond HIV, to encourage all into the centre and to be a community hub. It was interesting to hear of their outreach work where they’d go to local factories, refineries and paper mills; offering blood pressure checks, diabetes checks, oh and while you’re at it, lets test you for HIV 😉


It was a reoccurring conversation through the conference, and one the clinic can testify to, that ‘Sugar daddies’ and ‘Blessers’ are having a devastating impact on their community and patient numbers. These men aren’t being tested or accessing treatment, but the young girls are falling pregnant and then, as its a legal requirement in pregnancy, being tested. In South Africa, sex has become a commodity for trade between the poor and the richer; the price being paid that every week around 2000 women aged 15 to 24 are infected with HIV. Read more about the ‘Blessers’ here in The Guardian

It was also personally poignant to hear of the sex education or sexual health conversations that the youth in South Africa are party to, or not as the case often seemed to be. I saw condoms freely available in many places in South Africa; from toilets in the petrol station to the toilets in the shopping mall, however speaking with the team at Blue Roof, many youths in South Africa simply don’t know how to use them, won’t access them or aren’t able to use them in their sexual encounters. After all, protection takes two, and sadly assumes mutual consent.

Sex and Relationships Education (SRE) does meet with resistance within many schools in South Africa, and it is often grassroots community organisations addressing those conversations with young people instead. I read with interest the paper by  Leigh Adams Tucker, Gavin George, Candice Reardon and Saadhna Panday from Health Economics and HIV and AIDS Research Division, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa and UNICEF, Pretoria, South Africa on ‘Sexuality Education in South African Schools: The challenge for civil society organisations.’

The paper looked and spoke with 14-18 year olds in 16 different settings and witnessed great collaborations between schools and ‘civil society organisations’, whilst identifying the need for a whole school approach, exactly as we advocate daily at Think2Speak, with effective monitoring and evaluation of any services involved. Read the paper here: Sexuality education in South African schools: The challenge for civil society organisations

Blue Roof themselves visit local schools and educational setting speaking with Grade 7 (age 12) upwards, factories and workplaces trying to instigate frank and open dialogue with all about wellbeing, health and sexual health. These engagement programmes do however hinge on people being in education or at work though; neither of which the majority are in South Africa. Trying to access those not in education or work is ‘harder’, in their words but crucial to tackle the epidemic.

We were shown a recent film that had been made in an outreach collaboration between the clinic, Lalela, a non profit arts group from Cape Town, and youths from around the Blue Roof neighbourhood. The 5 day programme, run as an open house, started on the Monday with 10 young people, by the Friday they had over 100! The aim of getting young people into, and familiar, with the centre, regardless of their status, was smashed and the resulting film footage we watched that the young people had produced was really fantastic to see. It was also 100 more young people aware of where they could go to for sexual health advice, contraception, testing, treatment and the wealth of other services the centre could provide for them.

On the tour we were shown the huge spaces where they store the antiretroviral (ARV) medications used to treat their patients, and met the pharmacist who daily hands over around 100 scripts. The drugs themselves are provided ‘free of charge’ by the government to clinics such as Blue Roof, however none of the ‘wrap around’ care that they provide is funded by the government; from the counsellor who sits with you to discuss taking a test, to the nurse who draws your blood, to the equipment to test you, the chair you’re sat on, to the transport lorry that needs to collect the medications from a central distribution point to get them to the centre. There were shelves and shelves of AZT..

When someone accesses HIV testing at Blue Roof and is diagnosed HIV positive, they have their CD4 measured. At counts of 500 and below treatment is started. Viral load is checked after six months on treatment. After one year, CD4 counts and viral load are checked again. Post the first year anniversary of starting treatment the CD4 count is not checked again. The clinic desperately need safe and cheap ways to check not only the viral load and CD4 counts, but for resistance and side effects. Treatment options can not be tailored to the patient when resources are so restricted.

Currently the clinic treats at CD4 counts of 500 and below – the government’s plan is to implement, from September 2016, test and treat. Test and treat implies once a positive result is received for a patient, they are offered medication immediately. The centre, although knowing the benefits of test and treat, are fearful of the practicalities. Their patient numbers will swell, yet their resources and capacity are already stretched and funding is in decline.

The centre was built and launched on generous swatches of grants and funding, but must now become a sustainable model, as these come to an end. A price list graced the walls with a sliding scale of fees to see the nurses; if you’re under 16, a grandmother or unemployed there is no charge and if you’re employed you must show your payslips.

Chatting with a tour guide on a separate trip, she explained to us how ‘cash in hand’ work was a big issue, in her opinion, in South Africa. There are income caps, below which you qualify for free housing, and as such many employers choose to pay below that level ‘officially’ and then top up salaries in cash.

One of the highlights of the visit was meeting Gerrard, the centre’s chef. He’s one of those characters who everyone can’t help to love.  He’d been a patient at the clinic, struggling with multiple AIDS defining conditions – swathed in Kaposi’s sarcoma, barely able to walk, yet volunteered there and was the first to welcome the new centre manager, Tessa when she arrived for her first day at work. Tessa bought him some trainers the next day and asked him to walk, then walk a little more the next day and to just keep on walking. He then went on to join her running club and has since run numerous marathons and even completed the gruelling 89km Comrades Ultra marathon in South Africa! Read more about Gerrard here.

We also went into one of the nursery room’s to see how they talk about HIV with the children affected. We met about 15 two year olds who regularly attend the clinic to learn about ‘germs’ and why they visit the doctor, why they take medication each day. The nurse chatted through the book they use to discuss ‘the germs’, the language they use and the various age appropriate conversations that they have, grouped by under 6, 6-9, 9-12. The clinic do not disclose to any of the children, under 12, that they are HIV positive – the programme ensure that that conversation is had between parent or carer and the child, and they guide it to happen around age 12.

On the journey to the clinic, the minibus was a hive of conversations, we were a mixed bunch from a gene therapy researcher from Australia, a public health student from USA to 3 nurses from different European countries. We all climbed back aboard the minibus in silence. We all had so much to process, think about, swathed with appreciation for the health care settings we each have access to.

Read more about Blue Roof here.


Read more from my time at AIDS2016 here:

LIVING2016 Pre-conference

Red Ribbon Awards

Condom Couture

The People, The Faces, The StoriesThe People, The Faces, The Stories