– fonaCAB in the driving seat and will become the first organisation to complete the training –
30 November 2022: World AIDS Day, which takes place each December 1st, will this year focus on the theme of equality to highlight the division, disparity and disregard that has allowed AIDS and HIV to become and remain a global health crisis. To mark the day, Positive Life, Northern Ireland’s only dedicated HIV charity, has announced it will offer a new education programme – Positive About HIV – to employers across the province. fonaCAB which employs 100 people across its sites will be the first organisation in Northern Ireland to complete it.
The programme enables companies of any size to understand the myths associated with HIV, and how to be supportive of employees living with and affected by the condition. The offering is significant as HIV is still misunderstood yet continues to impact people locally with 1325 currently living with a positive status, and 76 new diagnoses made in 2021 – 12 of which were women.
CEO of Positive Life, Jacquie Richardson said: “World AIDS Day remains an important date as it’s an opportunity not only to address the unjustified discrimination that people living with HIV routinely experience, but also to highlight the needless stigma still surrounding the condition. We’re extremely proud of our decision to invest in this new education programme and excited to be working with new partners.
“This programme has the potential to deliver significant progress in challenging negative stereotypes and bring about better outcomes for our service users who often feel powerless against the unfounded and dangerous myths left behind since the 1980’s. For instance, some people still assume that AIDS and HIV are the same thing. Many believe HIV to be exclusive to the gay community. And as treatments have progressed, many don’t understand that onward transmission is virtually impossible where someone is living with an undetectable viral load in their blood.
“By signing up to complete our programme businesses and organisations can show that they are truly committed to creating inclusive and diverse workplaces where everyone feels supported, including anyone living with or affected by HIV. Positive Life would like to see workplaces across Northern Ireland have the appropriate policies in place to protect and support its employees, and ensure potential employees living with HIV feel able to apply for new roles, whilst also giving the entire workforce the tools to take ownership of their sexual health. I applaud fonaCAB for its progressive approach and for being the first to sign up and empower their staff.”
Earlier this year, Positive Life introduced its NI Buyers’ Club – a corporate fundraising model allowing it to engage with organisations and independently undertake new research and initiatives to meet the changing needs of service users. fonaCAB, ‘Taxi Company of the Year – Northern Ireland and Ireland’, has just become the newest member of the Club and in doing so made a three-year commitment which includes financial support of £5,000 per year.
Managing Director William McCausland said: “We see the work Jacquie and her team do as crucial to the future landscape of Northern Ireland and that is why we have chosen to support Positive Life. Discrimination of any kind has no place in our offices, our cabs or our communities so we’re looking forward to rolling out the Positive About HIV Programme to ensure that our drivers and staff are better equipped to understand the impact of living and working in Northern Ireland with HIV.”
Recent statistics highlight the misconceptions that exist around HIV. Whilst most people believe it to be a gay man’s disease, transmission between heterosexual partners accounts for almost one third (21/76) of new diagnoses in Northern Ireland. Jacquie believes there is a need for urgent and ongoing education.
She concluded: “Our service users tell us they feel shame and depression on a regular basis, and often don’t feel accepted enough to share their status, carrying the burden alone. World AIDS Day is an opportunity for people to recognise and address their own biases and prejudices, and resolve to not feed into the negative stereotypes.
“I hope that people will don their red ribbons this World AIDS Day, but even more so I hope that leaders and decision makers will engage with us as we continue our mission challenging negative perception and busting the myths around HIV to create a positive future for people living with or affected by the condition.”
For more information on Positive Life and its services, visit positivelifeni.com