Same story many differing headlines and takes on it from The Belfast Telegraph, Daily Mirror, Belfast News Letter and the Irish News
Same story many differing headlines and takes on it from The Belfast Telegraph, Daily Mirror, Belfast News Letter and the Irish News

As I think you may have noticed there has been a lot of coverage in Northern Ireland’s media leading up today, World AIDS Day. The photo to the right illustrates how one story can have quite different articles produced in four of the local newspapers yesterday.

The headlines tell the story for each of the newspapers:

  • The Daily Mirror had “Ulster Facing HIV Timebomb – Most heterosexuals get virus abroad”
  • The Irish News had “Singer Kennedy backs centre for people living with HIV”
  • “Increase in Ulster HIV cases” was the uninspiring one from the News Letter. (it did look like it was the Public Health Agency’s press release just copied and pasted…)
  • “I remember the time when the worst thing imaginable in Belfast was to be gay… then it was to have HIV” a quote from Brian Kennedy in the Belfast Telegraph.

There were two stories dominating the media this year here for World AIDS Day – the rise in infections, and the rebranding of our leading HIV Charity as Positive Life.

Today there was a four page spread in the Belfast Telegraph‘s “Weekend” magazine with interviews with three of us who are living with HIV in Northern Ireland.

I was particularly pleased that my phrase

It isn’t a death sentence, it’s a life sentence

made it as one of the major quotes highlighted on the page.

The article, penned by Maureen Coleman, highlights that it is possible to live with HIV, that it is normal for some of us to do so, and that each of us has our own story to tell. Unfortunately, the articles does not appear to be online just at the moment, but you can get a taste of it from the photographs below.

But it is not just the paper based media that has coverage:

  • there were the interviews with Matthew Cavan and myself used on UTV Live Tonight on Wednesday night, followed by a discussion with Positive Life’s director, Danny McQuillan.
  • We’ve had coverage on the Stephan Nolan show on BBC Radio Ulster, with an interview with Noelle Houston.
  • We’ve had two members of staff on U105 FM talking about the events that have been happening.
  • There’s been a lot of activity today with young people out in the city centre handing out red ribbons to highlight the issue.
  • There have been fundraising teams all over the place, and I know that there will be a collection at the Grand Opera House this evening after the performance of The Magic Flute.
  • The GOH has also been lit red to help raise awareness as well.
  • There was a World AIDS Day Service in St George’s Parish Church last night attended by many clients and volunteers from Positive LIfe.

But it is not just for World AIDS Day that the activity has been about. It continues from now until we Get to Zero: Zero new infections, Zero discrimination, and Zero AIDS-related deaths. Part of that process will be served by the work carried out by all involved in various HIV charities up and down the UK and Ireland and across the world.

Positive Life – the new era

From Monday there will be a new era in Positive Life, as the staff team prepare to answer the phone with ‘Hello, Positive Life’, I’m sure there will be a number of people who will be taken aback, expecting the familiar, ‘Hello, The Centre’, but it’s a step in the right direction. A step that has taken rather a long time to be taken. But it’s been taken with plenty of preparation: and I should know… I was a member of the Board of Trustees of The HIV Support Centre (now Positive Life) when most of what has finally happened was starting to be discussed and planned for. I’m very proud of the work that I did then, and I hope that everyone else who served as a Trustee alongside me is as well. We worked hard – in quite difficult times – but we came through it and Positive Life is very much stronger for it. I look forward to continuing as both a client and a volunteer with the organisation as we move forward together, showing all in Northern Ireland that,

A positive diagnosis does not necessarily mean a negative outcome