On Saturday night, HIV Ireland hosted the Red Ball at the Guinness Storehouse, which fundraised for the organisation’s activism. The event coincided with Irish Aids Day and featured a powerful speech from Panti Bliss.
A prominent message of the ball was: U=U, undetectable = untransmittable.
U=U means that people living with HIV who are on effective treatment cannot pass on HIV to their sexual partners. The message is also prominent on their social media.
It's #IrishAIDSDay, #RedBall night, and @DublinPride season! A mixed bag of events, campaigns and messages. #HIVIreland has one clear message for all events and seasons: #UequalsU. An undetectable viral load means an untransmittable virus. Fact! #RT and #HaveaRedBall pic.twitter.com/yk2mUDNrJR
— HIV Ireland (@HIVIreland) June 15, 2019
The ‘Queen of Ireland,’ legendary drag star Panti Bliss, took the stage of the Red Ball to candidly and openly talk about her experiences with living with HIV and stigma.
At werq, @HIVIreland #RedBall pic.twitter.com/9fGCsdnpGs
— Dr Panti Bliss (@PantiBliss) June 16, 2019
She said: “I appreciate that it’s relatively easy for me to stand up here and say, I am living with HIV, because it’s not going to affect my life very much, it’s a very different ask to ask someone who is on a football team in Ballaghaderreen, or to someone working in a meat factory in Roscommon, I know that is a big ask. Those of us who can come out must come out, because when we come out, we are making a little room for other people to come out.”
Panti urged that stigma can be ended when people know that people they interact with every day are living with HIV. She said that ending ignorance about the reality of HIV would create understanding and compassion. She also noted that ending stigma is important because stigma can stop people from getting tested, receiving results, and getting treatment.
“It messes people up,” she added. “And the only way to un-mess that is for people living with HIV to come out, when they can. We will erase stigma tomorrow if every single person living with HIV stood up and was open about it.”
Panti, 50, has been living with HIV for over 25 years. She said “I’m standing here in front of you, as healthy, no I take that back, healthier than most of you lazy bastards. I’m f***ing alive and fabulous after 25 years with HIV. ”
The beloved queen noted that she “got AIDS at the perfect time” because within a year of being diagnosed, anti-retroviral drugs first became available in Ireland. She also took time to thank doctors from St. James hospital in Dublin 8, saying, “They’ve treated us all with all incredible respect for the last 25 years.”
While she noted terrible side effects when she first started taking medication, she now takes one pill a day and is then able to “get on with her life.”
Along with Panti, the event was attended by many notable guests, including recently elected Lord Mayor of Dublin, Paul McAuliffe, who called the event a “special part” of his week one.
You never quite know where your week will take you. Between @FastTrackCities
And #Redball @HIVIreland became a special part of my #Week1 as #DubMayor350 I'm looking forward to working with them to implement
the #ParisDeclaration and destigmatise testing pic.twitter.com/mDA43TrNi1
— Paul McAuliffe (@PaulMcauliffe) June 16, 2019
Following are some tweets from Saturday’s impactful event:
What an honour to be asked to play a few songs last eve at The Red Ball for @HIVIreland and catch up with my mate, @pantibliss – always an inspiration, with razor sharp wit and a heart bigger than Molly Malone – also got to song with @camilleos – let's do an album x pic.twitter.com/51VdLq3kbH
— Jack O Rourke (@JackORourkes) June 16, 2019
A busy year leading up to tonight. Suited and booted for the #RedBall. #IrishAIDSday ❤️ pic.twitter.com/cXWig76YxW
— Adam Shanley (@Adlers1) June 15, 2019
Great night so far. #stampoutstigms pic.twitter.com/iwssZOtCsS
— Tracey Byrne MIACP (@TB_counselling) June 15, 2019
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