Lady FKA: “People are scared of what they don’t know, they only reject because they don’t understand”

So this has been one of the interviews I’ve been looking forward to the most as we have crossed paths in a different social setting in the world, but for those that don’t know you, please introduce yourself to our readers and tell us where you’re based and what you’re currently doing?

Of course! My name is Lady FKA, I’m a drag performer from London.

Amazing, I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting Lady FKA yet as I have only had the pleasure of meeting Jackson. How’s life in the London drag community?

Life in the London drag community is a joy, but it’s definitely cut throat. It has taken me some time to discover how I was really going to establish myself, while I am nowhere near where I would like to be, I am definitely on my way to it and now receiving regular bookings across London which is a dream come true.

That’s pretty great! There must be a lot of competition out there. Just know we fully stand by you and believe in you! You’ve kindly stepped forward and allowed us to interview you because you’re passionate about fighting HIV stigma, what motivated you?

Well thank you very much. Every little bit of support means the world to me. HIV has always been a scary word to me, from the day I discovered it back in secondary school aged 15, when a HIV positive lady came in to give us a talk on the topic, I saw how many of my fellow school members were disgusted by the virus and how they responded, from that day I vowed to be active to ending HIV stigma and supporting individuals with the virus.

Wow. This is something we haven’t touched on yet as we haven’t heard many stories about HIV stigma being active in a school setting. May we ask what your status is?

Of course. My status is Negative, I was last tested on the 8th September this year. Regular testing is a super important thing to me as I am extremely sexually active (as Jackson, not LadyFKA) you know, as you are when you’re 19.

That’s really great to hear as we are now unfortunately living in a generation where HIV is being contracted very easily particularly in the younger age group. It’s refreshing to hear that somebody as young as you understands the importance of being tested. Are you friends with any HIV positive people who have shared any stories about the stigma they have had to face?

Well thank you. I always aim to distance myself from my fellow youth, I’ve always felt like an older head on younger shoulders. I have indeed several HIV positive friends, one of them being my best friend. Who has been living with the virus for several years and has reached an undetectable status. It is heartbreaking to hear every time he tells me a guy has dropped him due to his HIV status, and it makes me even more angry when I find out that they don’t even know what the word undetectable means.

This is a huge issue and one of the reasons we decided to take on this project. Not enough people are aware of the term ‘undetectable’ yet and we want to change that. Do you think that if those people who were rejecting your friend due to his status were educated would perhaps rethink their decision?

Absolutely. People are scared of what they don’t know, they only reject because they don’t understand. It’s a natural human instinct, when individuals hear the word “HIV” if they don’t know a lot about the virus, they run a mile.

It’s unfortunate, as I suppose if you believe in a ‘fairy-tale’ type happy ending you could be potentially turning down the love of your life over something as small as being uneducated about a medical condition which can be controlled. Have you ever come across any confused, newly diagnosed HIV positive people? And if not, do you have any advice for those who are worried about their new status?

It is so sad. There already is a massive amount of gay shaming within our community, it becomes anymore bigger, are these guys even going to be find love, they’re so big on “no diseases, no fats, no femmes, no Asians” – how are they allowing themselves to meet the right individuals? I have indeed, a man I was regular sleeping with in July of this year was actually diagnosed HIV positive the next day, I undertook a month’s treatment of PEP, but what I said to him was that he needs to tell the people around him who he loves so that they can support him, and that’s what I would say to any other individual recently diagnosed, of course yes it’s like coming out again, but you have to do it otherwise it will eat you up.

I said this earlier to somebody today! I do certainly imagine it to be like coming out all over again. Shaming in the LGBT community seems to have become rife, even more so than what it was years ago. A part of our site includes information about PEP and the criteria you need to meet in order to qualify to go on the course but for those who don’t know what PEP is, please share with us what your PEP experience was like. Did you experience any side effects? Were you able to adhere to your medication everyday?

Absolutely. HIV stigma is something we massively need to put an end to, but we in fact need to completely remove shaming, which of course is going to take a lot of work, but I’m willing to fight for it.

My PEP treatment was terrifying, to be completely honest. It was the first time I had slept with someone and then discovered that they were newly HIV positive, and he still is a great friend of mine. I was able to adhere to my medication every single day, i was prescribed my medication at a A&E department in London, and with PEP if you go to a hospital to get it, you are only given 5 days worth then you have to receive the rest of the 23 day package from your clinic, I have a fantastic team over at 56 Dean Street / Dean Street Express, Soho, that look after me, which is the top LGBT Sexual Health Clinic in London. When going to 56 Dean Street, my doctor actually told me that she actually considered my risk so low, that she didn’t feel that I needed to even be on the PEP in the first place, and actually offered me to stop the treatment and not embark on that 23 day treatment. The criteria for going into PEP is quite specific, and while I was the Top, I am circumcised & there was no bareback or condom splits, I just wanted to have 100% security that I was going to be okay.

Well you can never be too safe! Very refreshing to hear this coming from a 19 year old. It’s so important that we have educated, open minded youth like yourself in our community. I’m sorry to hear that you had to undergo PEP treatment after your first time, you did great however by seeking advice from your sexual health clinic. This actually brings me to another question, there seems to be a lot of shame aimed towards people that visit the clinic. I personally think that everybody should go to visit the clinic at least once every 3 months as a standard routine procedure, yet we seem to face a lot of judgement from people when we do the right thing and go to get tested! Why do you think that is?

Well thank you very much, I hope I can inspire other youth to play safe and be educated. I absolutely think we should be visiting the clinic once every 3 months. I like to go a little more often, but that is just me. I think speaking in terms of judgement, I don’t give a f*ck about what anyone else could say about me going to the clinic, it’s my health not yours, if you want to sleep around and not get regularly tested, that is absolutely your choice, but that is not going to be me. People potentially judge others about going because they are too scared to go themselves.

That’s definitely a possibility! Lady FKA, you’ve been a breath of fresh air to talk to and it’s so nice to finally speak to you! Make sure you send Jackson our best too. Is there anything else you would like to say about HIV stigma?

It’s been a pleasure. Final thing I would like to say is, support and love each other. We’re a community at the end of the day, we should be acting like one.

If you want to see more of Lady FKA check out her insta here!

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