My journey with George House Trust started, like most things, with my network. I’m delighted to be a part of such an incredible HR community, one of whom was fundraising for GHT. They approached me and asked if We Are Adam would be able to provide a raffle prize. Of course, I was happy to get involved and we provided a restaurant voucher which was gratefully received.
Following the event this contact put a post on LinkedIn, thanking We Are Adam and myself for our contribution. One of the Trustees of GHT spotted this post and invited me as a guest to their gala ball. It really is a splendid event! They celebrate success, raise awareness, it’s a fundraiser and they share the advancements they have made in that year. I went on my own and really didn’t know what to expect.
I was honestly, genuinely, blown away. At this point I have very little idea of who George House Trust was, or the incredible work they do. I had always thought I was quite clued up, but it opened my eyes to the fact that I didn’t really know much about HIV. It turns out I was so ignorant! But I learned so much that evening.
I was ignorant to the fact that, with the right treatment, the virus can become undetectable in your blood and you cannot pass it on. GHT are working with Prevention Access on a campaign called “U=U”. It means Undetectable equals Untransmittable. HIV stigma is fuelled by the fear of transmission. We now know that effective HIV treatment has a clear and proven preventative impact and it’s vital that fair access to this medication is made available around the world.
“Whilst fully endorsing the U=U message and ensuring ongoing support for people to achieve and sustain an undetectable viral load, George House Trust also believes that it is vitally important that those people who, for whatever reason, do not, or cannot, achieve an undetectable viral load are not seen, or treated, any differently than those who do.” – George House Trust Website
GHT exist to ensure that people with HIV can live healthy lives free of stigma. I thought “oh yeah, we’re cool about it now.” We are not cool. The stigma and discrimination is as bad as it’s ever been.
What got me when I was first exposed to the work of GHT was the energy in the room. There are some incredible people involved in GHT’s initiatives. The night of the gala, GHT shared that years’ successes. For example, they had campaigned with Manchester City Council so that people who are living with HIV could no longer be refused a tattoo. But it was another key achievement that really struck home for me. GHT can now provide HIV positive mothers with formula milk, to stop the virus transmitting to their newborns. For most mums, that simply isn’t something you would think about, but there are women out there living their lives with this stigma hanging over them, unable to access the support they need.
I had considered myself reasonably well informed. But if I didn’t really have a clue, I’m certain there are plenty of others the same. Sure, in certain groups of society people are savvy but there is an awful lot of education that still needs to be done. I knew people in my circle with HIV, but I had never thought about it. What shocked me is that this is a disease that we can eradicate within our lifetime. This shouldn’t be a disease that continues to take lives. With the right focus, the right education, and the right communication, it won’t be.
As you can see, it struck a chord.
I wanted to be involved somehow and planned to join as a member volunteer. That’s open to anyone looking to lend their support and you can find out more hereif you have some spare time to lend a hand.
Subsequently, just before COVID started to emerge in the UK, I was approached to help recruit a new CEO. The Finance Director and Services Director had acted successfully as temporary interim CEOs, however, they needed to revert to their previous roles at George House Trust. It was a fabulous campaign that I am proud to have been a part of. I met some truly fascinating people and became very invested in the organisation. I started talking about HIV a lot more in my social circles, sharing the inspiring work they do at GHT whenever the opportunity arose. Darren Knight secured the role, and he is an extraordinary, inspirational individual.
I had gotten to know most of the Trustees through the recruitment process. The more I was learning about the organisation, the more I started to spot angles. I discovered areas they could do with support in and had looked at the financial accounts to discuss the role with potential candidates. At the time I had thought to myself, if an opportunity comes up to be more involved with GHT, I would love to support them.
Fast forward to the end of 2020, and they approached me to ask if I wanted to apply for a Trustee role. I’ve written a piece on LinkedIn about my first interview experience in 16 years (if you’d like to read it, click here). It was a very insightful process for me in which I learned a lot that I have taken into my day job. I am responsible for Income Generation and Marketing. The issue for any charity is that public funds will be limited going forward. There needs to be a shift in focus as to where the required funds are going to be coming from.
Interestingly, this all coincided with the release of It’s A Sin. Russell T Davis, who is a Patron of George House Trust, is a highly regarded and brilliant script writer. I’ve been a huge fan for years. Queer As Folk was the backdrop to me growing up in Manchester. I knew instantly that this series would start conversations. There’s an energy around HIV support now. A collective mission of sorts. I’d love to be a part of a legacy that makes HIV a thing of the past.