Dan: “Your soul chose this life because you’re strong enough to live it”

Dan thanks for taking the time for letting us interview you today, can’t say I’m happier to have more people willing to come forward and speak out against HIV stigma in my hometown! For those that don’t know who you are can you please introduce yourself and let our readers know a little bit about who you are and what you’re currently getting up to?

Well my name’s Dan but everyone calls me kit, I’m a professional show off. I basically wear as little as possible as often as possible, I’m also the social media and marketing executive for dsunderwear and although this is a fairly recent appointment I couldn’t be happier. Underwear is my passion and having a vast collection myself I usually receive alot of tweets or messages asking my advice on certain brands or styles.

You are indeed! I’ve noticed some people can take this the wrong way but I personally perceive you to just be sexually open minded and I admire that. Staying on the topic of underwear, what’s your favourite brand overall?

I’m a firm believer that sex and sexuality should be enjoyed, people get embarrassed talking about underwear or sex toys and they shouldn’t. People need to learn to be more open about the things that they like, believe me it makes life far more enjoyable. With that said I have just over 7000 pairs of underwear so picking a favourite brand is a real struggle!

I love the Andrew Christian Trophy Boy range, they’re made for men who pack a little more than average downstairs which for me unfortunately is much needed. N2N Bodywear is an amazing brand, really comfortable well made underwear and loungewear and Marco Marco have a great look it’s very gogo boy alot of neon and bright colours mixed with mesh makes for very sexy very visually appealing garments.

So those would probably be my top three brands.

How very specific! I have to say out of the ones you mentioned I’m completely on-board with everything and anything Andrew Christian! 

Moving forward with your love life, am I right in thinking you put a ring on it recently?

You are, although technically he put a ring on it and I said yes.

I’ve only ever spoken to James briefly and I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting him a.k.a Vivienne but you both seem very happy together, congratulations!

Dan and James following their engagement

I noticed you were in attendance of a few events following the World AIDS Day candle-lit vigil in Manchester this year. How was your evening and what is your overall opinion of World AIDS Day? Do you think it raises enough awareness?

Thank you. We missed the vigil this year unfortunately because James was getting ready for a charity gig at Via and then we went to the Eagle to support the guys there.

I think World AIDS day is amazing and it’s desperately needed, James and I are huge supporters of The George House Trust and although WAD does alot in the way of raising awareness I still think there’s alot of educating that needs to be done for the younger generation of LGBT who are just coming onto the scene but don’t know 20 years ago HIV was still seen as a death sentence.

I have friends who would go to the safe bars when they were younger and sit and talk to the regulars and then one day ‘dave’ the regular wouldn’t be there because he’d died of an AIDS-related illness.

I’d like to know what your general take is on HIV stigma. As somebody that explores sexuality as much as you do, have you ever witnessed HIV stigma for yourself? Do you still come across people with outdated views?

Daily. You go onto any gay app and you get HIV stigma, even if the person using it isn’t aware that they are. The use of the word ‘clean’ is a very, very sore point for me. I appreciate you may want to know someone’s sexual status before hooking up with them and you’re well within your rights to ask them, but to then therefore assume that if they are not ‘clean’ as in HIV negative they are somehow dirty. I find it utterly insulting and disrespectful that stigma like this is a thing, but it’s only a modern thing. It’s not a question that was asked 10/15 years ago, so if you can learn to ask that question you can learn to ask it in less dehumanising manner.

Like you say, I think a lot of the time people don’t even realise they are using stigmatizing language. I can agree it’s also a sore point for me. 

With HIV stigma, even in the most open-minded and accepting countries, stigma is still there and a lot of that is due to this sort of language, even if 80% of the time it isn’t used to hurt somebody’s feelings.

What’s your opinion on PrEP?

PrEP is amazing and should be heralded as the the breakthrough it is. I understand the fear that some people have that making PrEP freely available will increase more riskier sexual liaisons, however my argument is this. In the straight community when do you hear the focus of wearing a condom being about sexual health? I only ever hear ‘I wore a condom cos I didn’t wanna get her pregnant’.

The LGBT community as a general rule doesn’t need to worry about that, instead we came out of the closet and straight got “don’t get AIDS”

Unprotected sex happens, fact. If there is a tablet that reduces the risk of that unprotected sex it needs to be made available to everyone. Prevention is the best cure after all.

I’m unsure of your status Dan but if you are or if you were HIV negative, would you consider PrEP for yourself as a form of protection or an extra layer of security? I ask this because I’m aware that there are still many that are high-risk but not quite open to start PrEP through personal choice/preference. Where would you personally stand with PrEP?

I’m actually HIV negative and would happily be on PrEP if it were more readily available. The use of PrEP does not negate the need to use a condom, however condoms are never 100% effective and therefore two forms of protection are always, clearly going to be better than one or none.

I can’t fault your logic. With the recent news that the NHS will be conducting a large-scale trial and will be making PrEP available to 10,000 people in Spring 2017, would you be interested in taking part if you were to fit their criteria?

100% if something I can do today will help protect future generations from HIV then I’ll do it. Imagine if through the effective use of medication and science HIV and Aids related illnesses were only talked about in a history class! That should be our goal, we should do everything we can to make that happen.

Well education certainly is the key!

Something we ask in every interview, what is your advice to the newly diagnosed? If a friend was to turn to you for reassurance because they had been diagnosed with HIV, what words would have for them?

Gay or straight you need to come out. If you’re gay you’ve done it before and you know how hard it can be. If you’re straight it’ll be the hardest thing you ever do. Luckily you will never and I mean ever, have to go through it alone.

There are charities and support groups out there, use them. We live in an age where luckily this is no longer a death sentence, yes you will get abuse, people will look at you differently and treat you differently but it’s to their detriment, not yours. Your soul chose this life because you’re strong enough to live it! So do not let anyone stop from living it.

Thank you Dan and finally before we wrap this up is there anything else you would like to say to our readers?

Get yourself checked. Not knowing your status because you’re scared of the outcome is a piss poor excuse! It takes less than 3 minutes hell you can do it at home! But knowledge is power, know your status, know your history and know yourself.

Want to take part in our #STIGMAWARRIOR campaign? Have your say on HIV stigma and get in touch: stigmawarrior@destigmatizehiv.com