As the calendar turned to December last week, we joined people around the world in marking World AIDS Day.
The annual event, held each year on 1 December, is an opportunity for us to raise awareness of HIV and to challenge the stigma that continues to surround the condition.
But it is also an important opportunity for people living with or affected by HIV to reflect and remember friends and family who have died as a result of HIV/AIDS through the years.
Here we take a quick look back at how we marked the day across the country…
The centrepiece of our World AIDS Day activities was our Community Gathering at Broughton St Mary’s in Edinburgh.
The annual event brings people together with a focus on remembrance and reflection, with music from our friends at Loud & Proud and the Tartan Ribbon Community Choir.
On the evening we had some beautiful readings and a moving address from supporter, Dale, about his experience of stigma growing up in a family affected by HIV.
Raising HIV awareness online
Throughout World AIDS Day, we were sharing HIV facts via our social media accounts.
Today in Scotland there are around 5,900 people living with HIV, an estimated 13% of whom have never been diagnosed.
Although HIV can affect anyone, there are groups in society who are disproportionately affected, including gay and bisexual men, Scotland’s African communities and injecting drug users. Throughout the year, we work to encourage people who may have been at risk to access testing.
We’ve been sharing the message that once you know your HIV status, you can take control of your health. The treatments that are available mean that a person diagnosed early with HIV can have a normal life expectancy. Treatments work by reducing the level of HIV in a person’s blood to the point it is undetectable, and there is now scientific consensus that a person with an undetectable viral load cannot pass on HIV.
Raising awareness in the community
Alongside online awareness raising, we were out and about around World AIDS Day, talking to people about our work.
Things started early, on 28 November, when we joined other HIV organisations at the Scottish Parliament for an event highlighting HIV stigma. One of our service users shared her story with the audience and our Voice of Hope Choir also performed.
We also teamed up with a number of universities, colleges and schools to offer information to staff and students on World AIDS Day. At Glasgow Caledonian University, we were able to offer HIV testing to students, and provided lots of information about our work. At the University of Edinburgh, we participated in a Q&A panel with the Staff Pride Network around the issue of HIV stigma. We also had stalls at Coatbridge College and Inverness College offering advice for students.
On the school front, we gave a presentation to students at Beeslack High School in Midlothian and were delighted that Mearns Castle High School in Newton Mearns decided to sell Tartan Ribbons to raise money for Waverley Care.
Further afield, we were in Tobermory on Mull, where students from the local high school had produced artwork, music and theatre pieces around the theme of HIV. We were there with information about the support work we offer in Argyll and Bute.
Our African Health Project helped to promote World AIDS Day with African Churches, with several making the event part of their service – including the Eagles Flight International Church Edinburgh, the Fountain of Love RCCG Glasgow and the Embassy of the Word of God Church Edinburgh.
Finally, we were invited by Wood Mackenzie to speak to their staff about our work, and the challenges faced by people living with or affected by HIV, while staff at DWP in Motherwell and the North Edinburgh Drug and Alcohol Centre were selling Tartan Ribbons to raise money to support our work.
Coming up this week, we’re returning to Colinton Parish Church for what has become an annual World AIDS Day Evening of Musical Reflection – a showcase of local musical talent including: Firrhill High School, Colinton Church Band, Ian Sutherland, Sisters with Spirit, and our very own Tartan Ribbon Community Choir.
With public awareness of World AIDS Day so high, it is a great opportunity for people to get involved in fundraising with us – and there was lots going on around the day this year.
Our World AIDS Day fundraising got off to a great start with news that we are among 210 charities involved in Starbucks’ ‘Cheer for Good’ campaign. Local Starbucks stores have been really supportive of our work, and we visited teams at the Waverley Steps and Princes Street branches. If you’re on twitter, retweet any messages with #CheerForGood and @WaverleyCare to help us turn a £500 donation from the company into £2,000!
Alongside Starbucks, we also had staff collections for Waverley Care from Sky UK teams in Dunfermline, Livingston and Falkirk, as well as from Barclays in Glasgow.
Students also got involved in the early fundraising action with the return of a regular event, and something new for World AIDS Day 2017. Heriot Watt’s LGBT+ Society once again staged a hugely successful Red Ceilidh, while Edinburgh University LGBT+ Society (BLOGS) and EUSA Liberation hosted Crush, a monthly club night celebrating queer culture.
On the eve of World AIDS Day, our friends at CC Blooms Bar hosted an all day fundraiser for Waverley Care involving live music, stand up comedy, drag performances and a huge pub quiz. The Waverley Care team came a creditable second in the quiz!
There was more support from local bars as The Village hosted a fundraising club night, and collections across the weekend for Waverley Care.
World AIDS Day itself kicked off with a visit to the MAC Cosmetics team at Harvey Nichols in Edinburgh, where our senior fundraiser, Karen, spoke live to MAC teams across the UK about our work. The teams in Edinburgh and Glasgow have been really supportive of our work, offering their skills for our service user pamper days, and the MAC AIDS Fund has supported our work for a number of years, including a £42,000 grant this year.
Coinciding with the countdown to Christmas, we tapped into some festive cheer with fundraising at Edinburgh’s Christmas. The team from Remploy in Edinburgh were out bucketshaking for us and we also had carolers from the Royal High School singing a selection of festive favourites. Over the coming weeks, we’ve got more carolers out from George Watson’s College, the Musical Medics of Edinburgh University and the wonderful Cadenza Choir.
Over the years we have enjoyed close relationships with local theatres and, with big shows in town, we were able to raise more money to support our work. We had collectors at the Edinburgh Playhouse and the Festival Theatre, where touring productions of Beautiful and Legally Blonde were playing. Both shows announced our collections, which makes a huge difference to the amounts we see come in through the buckets.
Our World AIDS Day fundraising weekend was rounded off with a bang, with the Dive Queer Party at the Traverse Theatre. The self-styled camp as Christmas event brought a festive feast of queer cabaret!
With World AIDS Day past for another year, we’d like to thank all of the individuals and organisations who supported us in one way or another around the day.
World AIDS Day is a great opportunity for us to shout about the work we are doing throughout the year to support people living with or affected by HIV, and to challenge stigma, and we are incredibly grateful for the support.
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