Thank you so much for allowing us to interview you today, can you give our readers a brief introduction about yourself? Where are you based? What is it you do?
Well I’m Joey! and I’m living in West Yorkshire. I’m a Radio Panelist, Actor and have dabbled in modelling once or twice. Trying to get up to date information surrounding HIV out there and accessible to people. I’ve appeared on the 5STAR show SEXPOD to talk about being HIV undetectable and I’m currently on fortnightly on Gaydio North West on #TheExchangeOnGaydio
DESTIGMATIZE visited Gaydio back in November whilst we were busy promoting our launch for World AIDS Day, you were all so lovely and welcoming but unfortunately we never had the opportunity to meet! Can you tell us about your involvement with Gaydio – The Exchange?
I hope you enjoyed your time there. Maybe we can get you on to talk about this? -Wink Wink-. I’m a proud part of the Thursday exchange team usually giving my thoughts every other week with my partner Marky Mark Scott and another charismatic figure. Looking at some of the issues and stories in the media and a platform for listeners to be able to interact with us about them. Giving people a voice. Talking about HIV seems to be something I just do on air now and i’m okay with that. I’m often caught up talking about it on a personal level and I think being able to have a platform where you feel safe to do that is incredible. I just hope that when people listen, it’s helping.
We also hear that you have had some involvement with the Terrence Higgins Trust and their campaign ‘It Starts With Me’, how was your experience volunteering for such a great well known leading UK HIV charity?
Finding the Terrence Higgins Trust for the facts gave me the courage to speak about it. I was just so glad to be able to give back and help put another face out there with a positive message about HIV. The team were lovely and was such a honour to be a part of such a massive charity.
After being diagnosed while contacting my previous sexual partners, the word was getting out like wildfire – so I put a video on Facebook outing myself before someone else had the chance to so that being publicly positive didn’t bother me.
Why is HIV stigma important to you and what inspires you to combat outdated views that still surrounds HIV today?
Probably my mums reaction originally when I told her I had tested positive for HIV and it really got to me how serious she believed it was.
Being so open about it from the start with the video was the only way I knew I could get through this because I thought that it if I treated it like a dirty little secret then that’s what I perceive it to be. The real fact is that I’m healthy and happy. Will live to a normal ripe age and will have to take tablets for the rest of my life.
The whole part of HIV stigma for me is the fact that people are still armed with facts that were true in the late 80’s & 90’s but simply have changed dramatically but peoples mindsets haven’t yet. But after speaking to people about it over the last couple of years I have found people are fine with being given the new information but just haven’t necessarily have been given it before.
Our friend from across the pond Bruce Richman started a campaign called #UequalsU and the message is simple… Undetectable = Uninfectious/Untransmittible – we obviously support Bruce and I’m trying to help boost the #UequalsU campaign just by approaching activists such as yourself and other charities to try and catch on to Bruce’s work. What are your general thoughts on #UequalU?
It dittos the message that I hope to be spreading to people and is something I personally I didn’t know until I was diagnosed. It makes HIV fairly perceived once a person has it under control. I could’t say their message any louder!
Do you have any advice for the newly diagnosed? Any words of wisdom or encouragement to those particularly vulnerable to HIV stigma?
It isn’t anything to be ashamed about. Don’t be so hard on yourself and stay strong through the sometimes bumpy road back to yourself. Things don’t ever get back to exactly like before, but you find a new normal.
What are your thoughts on PrEP?
I think in situations where the person is at high risk it’s great and should be prescribed on a person to person basis. I don’t however believe this is not the new frontline of protection against HIV as education around the virus and accessible testing would be much more cost effective.
How do you personally challenge HIV stigma in social environments?
Personally I just chat to people about it. If it comes up when I’m taking my pills when I’m out or someone brings it up I explore what they know and usually people are curious about it. They ask questions and listen to me. When I found out I was positive I started to learn about this virus in my body and learnt what I could about it and that stuck with me. I feel confident talking about it. I talk about it on Gaydio a lot and I hope that helps people.
And finally, is there anything else you’d like to say before we wrap this up?
Thank you for considering me to be a part of such a amazing campaign and let me know if theres anything else I can do for you guys!
You can catch Joey on Gaydio North West on The Exchange every second Thursday 8-10pm
Want to take part in our #STIGMAWARRIOR campaign? Have your say on HIV stigma and get in touch: firstname.lastname@example.org
We are also working in collaboration with ‘But I Like It’ a local photography company who are a major contributor to our campaign. For those in the Greater Manchester/West Yorks area, you will be eligible for a free photoshoot with our good friend Johann who will be happy to give you a free photoshoot for those wishing to take part in our campaign.