Article by Matthew Hodson (@Matthew_Hodson) from GMFA – the Gay Men’s Health Charity.
Dress code: Red
Every month, on the 3rd Thursday, a bunch of HIV-positive gay men (and some friends) meet up in Soho and go on a pub crawl. In many respects this is entirely ordinary: there are hundreds of gay men living with HIV drinking in the gay bars of Soho every evening. What’s different is that at the Poz Pub Crawl we will be there as openly HIV-positive gay men. And we’ll be wearing red.
So why are GMFA doing it?
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 the people 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. More than that, judging by the way that the first couple of pub-crawls have gone, we can expect to have a fun, sociable and supportive evening.
Is this HIV-Positive Pride?
I wouldn’t say I’m proud to be HIV-positive. Many of us have taken a sexual risk at some point in our lives so, although I don’t feel particularly proud of my HIV status, I don’t feel like I should be made to feel ashamed either. I’ll take responsibility for it and just try to be honest about it. Like coming out of the closet about being gay, coming out about your HIV status can also be relief. Carrying secrets can be a heavy burden. Being open about your status in public may encourage others to think about their own attitudes and their own behaviour.
I want this to be a fun, casual, social event. So, without having to build an attendance list and know exactly who’s coming, we need a way of identifying each other. 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. At the first Poz Pub Crawl there were about 40 of us altogether. We made quite an impact; standing on the stairs at Comptons and looking down there was a sea of red t-shirts.
For the particularly bold among us, we can get ‘HIV+’ t-shirts for you to wear. If you’re interested in buying a personalised ‘HIV+’ t-shirt, contact Michael.
Where and when?
For the next event, we’re once again meeting at the Kings Arms in Poland St at 7pm, wandering down to the Duke of Wellington for 8pm and then finishing up at the grand dame of Old Compton St, Comptons, at 9pm. It’s a pub crawl so all timings are approximate. We plan to keep doing this on a monthly basis, probably keeping to every 3rd Thursday, so come back to the GMFA website, follow our tweets, or ask Michael to be put on the Poz Pub Crawl email list to get the meeting details each month.
Also, 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, so please spread the word.
More information available on the GMFA Website