Matthew Hodson, Chief Executive of GMFA the gay men’s health charity, said, “Although about one in twelve gay men in London are living with HIV, and the numbers are continuing to rise, the visibility of HIV has decreased in recent years. That means that many gay men believe that they don’t know anyone who has HIV, and myths and misconceptions about HIV are given the opportunity to flourish. By being out there and visible, we have the opportunity to acknowledge that people with HIV are standing shoulder to shoulder with you in our bars and clubs – and we hope that by doing this we may challenge the stigma that many men living with HIV encounter. And at the same time, we hope that we’ll have a fun, sociable and supportive evening.”
All HIV-positive gay men are welcome to join in. The organisers have asked people to wear red, so that members of the group can identify each other. Matthew explained, “I chose red because I thought it was a colour that most people would have something of in their wardrobe but not so common that we'll struggle to identify each other. You don’t have to wear red to join us, but we will be much more visible if you do.”
The pub crawl will start off in the Kings Arms in Poland St at 7pm, wandering down to Comptons at 8pm and then onto the Manbar at 79 Charing Cross Road at 9pm. It's a pub crawl so all timings are approximate. If it’s a success the organisers plan to set up something similar for next month.
Matthew added, “So far we’ve just been talking about it on GMFA’s website and via Twitter, and already we’ve had people contacting us from all over the UK and even from across Europe and the US, supporting the idea. I’ve no idea how many people will show up on the night, we’ll have to see. It’s no small thing to be open about your HIV status but being open about your status in public may encourage others to think about their own attitudes and their own behaviour. The more of us there are, the bigger impact we will have, and the better opportunity to make new friends and have a fun time.”