Our relationship with the AXM Foundation started last year when we volunteered to help the charity collect money from people during the Village People Weekend held in Sackville Gardens. Both DESTIGMATIZE and the AXM Foundation were founded last year with the foundation being late AXM owner, Haydn Pope’s dying wish to leave behind a legacy which would ultimately be the AXM Foundation.
I made a pitch to the foundation during their first ever Pitch To Enrich evening. It was this foundation that gave us our first platform to raise awareness and allowed us to voice the idea of a Manchester based anti-HIV stigma project. Chairman of the foundation, Stuart Donnelly has consistently been supportive of this project and we look forward to maintaining a special relationship with the AXM Foundation going forward.
My continued faith and belief in this foundation led me to pitch an idea about HIV stigma and how we can tackle this issue socially and have the whole community involved. It was an idea that was both challenging to pitch and it was one that could have easily backfired. However, if it wasn’t for those who first believed in my idea from the beginning before DESTIGMATIZE officially launched on World AIDS Day last year, I feel confident enough to say that this project may not exist if it wasn’t for this foundation. Sure, we held our own fundraiser and we did not win on the evening, but we still came out winners
Following this we met more friends… These would be fellow activists Rylan John Cavell, Ashleigh Talbot and a little later on Lydia Bernsmeier-Rullow. Rylan approached me during my campaign before we launched and had invited me on to The Gay Agenda radio show and also a spot on the sofa with Ashleigh during a That’s Pride TV segment featuring Annie Wallace. This was another first for us, any campaigning done thus far had not involved any TV or radio appearances. Again, this was before we launched!
Following this came a string of other appearances I was kindly invited along to which involved more television and radio shows both before and after we launched. For me as an individual, I was very thankful because it was a great learning curve for me. I don’t believe there is one single activist in this world that can know absolutely everything A-Z about LGBT+ culture, politics and history, but these people strive every single day to learn more because they are not ignorant to learn which then inspired me to want to learn more. Throughout these appearances I have to say I learnt so much from these people because admittedly, I guess you could say I went in there thinking I would know all of it, but I don’t, I still don’t but what’s changed is I’m eager to learn more now that I’m aware that there is so much more to learn – not only just about HIV-stigma but this can vary from LGBT+ history, our current political situation, both national and worldwide, trans inclusion, bi-phobia and so much more.
More recently our latest collaboration was The Gay Agenda Live show which can previewed in the videos below, featuring another powerful individual I had met along the way Lydia Bernsmeier-Rullow.
It was with great pleasure to hear earlier on yesterday that both Rylan and Ashleigh will be pitching to the foundation and I would like to show my support to these people because not only would this be out of respect for these people to give us a platform to speak about what we’re passionate about but I can vouch that these people take their work and activism seriously – they put this before everything they do.
Also pitching alongside them will be another friend of mine Mr Barry Wall, after 13 years of friendship, again, it would be wrong of me to not mention how much of an asset you have been to our community for the last 13 years that I can remember. It’s an honor to still have you as a friend and inspiring to see that you’re always doing something creative and beneficial for the community.
This evening will also be a very special night for our project and we will be joined by Paul Livesey, an individual we wanted to help back in November 2016 when he was first diagnosed. More recently, he contacted us and requested that he makes a public disclosure about his HIV-positive status in hopes to inspire and give hope to others. Since disclosing his status Paul has received support from many family, friends and even other HIV-positive and HIV-negative people who haven’t even had the pleasure of meeting Paul yet. Tomorrow Paul was to make his mark on his new-found love for wanting to change people’s outdated views about HIV and I will be more than happy to stand by him and offer him my full support and continue working with Paul.
Also joining me again will be fellow #STIGMAWARRIOR, Callum Payne. Callum published his story with us on World AIDS Day – he was one of the first individuals I spoke with about bugchasing which is something I later raised awareness for on The Gay Agenda show.
Amongst some of the individuals mentioned in this post, we’re also looking forward to hearing from;
Sarah Wilkinson (Proud To Be Parents)
Christopher Oatway (Trafford Pride)
Luke Walker (Stockport Pride)
The event will be held this evening at 9pm @ AXM Manchester – RSVP here for more details
I wish all of the pitchers this evening the best of luck
Junior (Project Founder)