ACT UP Dublin is a group of activists committed to direct action to end the HIV crisis. Will St Leger, the long-time activist and artist, has been nominated by ACT UP Dublin to take over the @Ireland Twitter account on behalf of the group from November 26 to December 2.
Curated by a new person every week, the @Ireland account reaches up to 5 million Twitter users per month.
St Leger and the wider ACT UP group aim to use the opportunity to raise awareness, educate, and help end the stigma associated with HIV, alongside providing information on prevention treatment.
World AIDS Day takes place on December 1 2018 – this year is its 30th anniversary. In Ireland, there has been no decline in last year’s HIV diagnoses figures, and Ireland on average sees a new diagnosis every 18 hours – that’s ten a week or 500 a year
Speaking to GCN, Will said: “The Ireland account is a great opportunity not just to reach people that were affected by HIV and Aids but the wider public as well. Over the last few years, we have seen very profound HIV crisis happening in Ireland and it is a public health issue that needs to be addressed on a public, political, and social on those levels so is a great opportunity to engage with people, not just lecture people, I am not there to do that, but actually engaged people to find out their knowledge base, find out their fears and their concerns about HIV, have rational (hopefully) discussions about it.
“I hope to learn something from the followers on the Ireland account. I hope that by the end of the week they have learnt something too, and by World AIDS day that they would have learnt a lot more about HIV in one week that would have had in the last decade.”
St Leger and ACT UP and will also share the message that thanks to advances in medicine, people living with HIV can live long, healthy lives and not worry about passing the virus on.
World AIDS Day takes place on December 1st each year and is an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV, to show support for people living with HIV, and to commemorate those who have died. Ahead of the 30th anniversary of World AIDS Day, activist group ACT UP Dublin have secured the coveted opportunity to curate the @Ireland Twitter account; an online volunteer-led account which aims to educate the Irish Twitter population on the lived experiences of a different person each week.
ACT UP Dublin
ACT UP, the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power, is a diverse, non-partisan group of individuals united in anger and committed to direct action to end the HIV/AIDS crisis. ACT UP Dublin was founded in July of 2016 in response to the steady growth in new HIV diagnoses in Ireland, and the persistent and pernicious silence and stigma that continue to surround HIV.
Will St Leger, a member of ACT UP Dublin, will helm the @Ireland Twitter account – which has over 71,000 followers – for seven days from this Monday, November 26th to Sunday, December 2nd. St Leger will be addressing the account’s audience with the main objective of raising awareness about HIV and, in particular, HIV in Ireland. St Leger, a highly-regarded artist and creative director, will also be highlighting his other interests and day-to-day activities such as the resurgence of street art in Dublin. A former Greenpeace activist, St Leger has been involved in activism for many years and was nominated by the wider ACT UP Dublin group to take over the @Ireland account.
HIV in Ireland
HIV is a treatable condition that can be managed long-term, and free care and treatment is available to anyone diagnosed with HIV in Ireland. Through the PARTNER studies, it was proven that someone with HIV who is on antiretroviral treatment, with an undetectable viral load for at least 6 months, cannot pass on HIV through sex. This is known as U=U or Undetectable = Untransmittable. Yet in HIV Ireland’s People Living with HIV Stigma Survey 2017, around two-thirds of respondents living with HIV feared being rejected in a relationship and around half of this number had actually been rejected. It also found that the majority of people living with HIV (61%) had not disclosed their HIV status at some point as they were afraid they would be judged or treated differently if they did.
The latest HIV diagnoses figures released from the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) show no decline in HIV diagnoses from last year. On average, there is a new HIV diagnosis in Ireland every 18 hours, which is 10 a week, or 500 a year. Barriers to prevention are many: Persistent high levels of stigma, funding cuts to key services like Dublin’s Gay Men’s Health Service over the last decade, entirely inadequate regional resources, lack of access to effective HIV prevention tools like PrEP ( “Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis”— a safe and effective way for HIV-negative people to prevent HIV by taking medication before and after sex), and a lawsuit threatening to force cheaper generic versions of PrEP out of Irish pharmacies.
Other instances in which in which ACT UP is calling for improvements include upgrading the HSPC systems to include data on HIV diagnoses for trans people, and the accessibility of treatment for people living in Ireland’s Direct Provision centres.
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