Positive Storytelling event to share the stories of people living with HIV

Positive Storytelling is a free live event which will take place this Sunday to mark 40 years of HIV and AIDS.

Split screen for Positive Storytelling - Black and white head shots. On the left, Robbie Lawlor. On the Right, Shaun Dunne
Image: Noel Donnellon/Wolf James

 To mark the 40th anniversary of the first diagnosis of AIDS, an exciting outdoor event Positive Storytelling: Sharing Your Status has just been announced. 

Hosted by theatre-maker Shaun Dunne and HIV activist, Robbie Lawlor, the event will bring together people living with HIV to give them a platform to share their stories. The stories will also be filmed and broadcast on December 1 to mark World AIDS Day 2021.

Positive Storytelling: Sharing Your Status will be accompanied by two workshops which will take place earlier in the day. Supported by Dublin LGBTQ+ Pride and Mind and Body Works, the workshops will be closed to the public and are specifically aimed at people living with HIV.

Robbie, who co-hosts Poz Vibe podcast, told GCN, “We are asking those who are comfortable, to share their stories in Temple Bar, one of Ireland’s most visited tourist areas. Gone are the days that people living with HIV are expected to remain closeted. We are going to stand proud on November 21st and refuse to be silenced.”

Robbie and Shaun first began working together to develop the theatre show, Rapids. The show was intended to make the private public by exploring the stories of people living with HIV.

As Shaun explained to GCN, “it’s interesting that Robbie and I have been working together since 2017, within stories around disclosure and living openly with HIV. When we started out, we were making a theatre project where many of the people who were contributing weren’t comfortable with representing themselves or talking about their own experiences directly but now in 2021, we’re seeing a real change in that. 

“And so it’s going to be a public event, whereby people are holding their own and representing themselves and speaking their own experience. And that’s where we’re going to be shining the light on Sunday.”

Robbie describes what he learned from coming out about his HIV status. “In 2014, an organisation called Youth Stop AIDS helped me formulate my HIV story and asked if I would share my story with college students all across the U.K. It was one of the most transformative months of my life. It allowed me the space to talk openly about my status in a structured way that was free from interruption. Many people living with HIV do not usually get this luxury. 

“The art of storytelling allowed me to make sense of my own story. It helped me to identify my highs, my lows and my story’s turning point; the part in my story when something positively changed the trajectory of my HIV journey. 

“This meaning-making holds so much power for us individually. It is also our best tool to change the hearts and minds of those around us. By being vulnerable and sharing an intimate part of ourselves, we allow people to join us on our journey, we get to educate them and we get to humanise our experience.”

As Shaun puts it, “The workshops in the morning are for people who feel like maybe they’re at a point of change in their own circumstance, where they’re ready to talk about what it means to be living with HIV in Ireland today. And we’re going to give them some tools and some thoughts that will help prepare them for that shift… So we’re trying to create some engagement that helps people to speak out as well as the platform itself, and which is really important to us”

Positive Storytelling: Sharing Your Status will take place this Sunday, November 21 in Meeting House Square, Temple Bar at 2 pm. The event is free to attend but you should register interest by emailing [email protected] or c[email protected]. Anyone who wishes to take part is also encouraged to get in touch via the same emails.

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