Raising the profile of positive women.
Sophia Forum is celebrating our 10 year anniversary with our event, Wising Up: Women, Violence and HIV in the UK, in London in the early evening of the 25th of November.
We have chosen this date as it is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and it marks the beginning of 16 days of global activism against gender based violence,http://www.un.org/en/events/endviolenceday/.
The day is also in National HIV testing week http://www.bhiva.org/National-HIV-Testing-Week-2015.aspx and before World AIDS Day on the 1st of December http://www.worldaidsday.org/.
We are pleased to have excellent keynote speakers including one of our founders, Dr Alice Welbourn, our patron Professor Jane Anderson, a former president of the British HIV Association and Baroness Gould. In addition we hope to have a recorded message from our second patron Professor Baron Peter Piot the Director of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and former UNAIDS Executive Director.
What a star studded cast… there is still time to book to attend and hear more about our work.
Some highlights from Sophia Forum activity over the years have been:
- 2008 An evening with Cherie Booth QC and Legal Rights and Social Wrongs: Sophia inaugural lecture with Baroness Helena Kennedy QC
- 2009 In Sickness and In Health: Women and HIV in 2009 hosted jointly with the TARGETS Consortium at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine followed by Health and Safety: The Challenges for Women of HIV and Gender Violence hosted jointly with the All Party Parliamentary Group on AIDS and the All Party Parliamentary Group on Population Development and Reproductive Health
- 2011 Sophia Forum Round Table Meeting to address issues in relation to Women and HIV in the UK hosted by Baroness Gould of Potternewton
- 2013 House of Lords: Sophia Forum Report on GBV & HIV launched, followed by the Sophia Forum at the (BHIVA) British HIV Association Annual Conference in Manchester. We have had a poster accepted about our study of the intersections of Gender-Based Violence and HIV.
- 2014 The first WISE-UP+ advocacy workshop by and for women living with HIV.
At the end of October 2015 we ran the second WISE-UP+ (Women, Inspire, Support and Empower to Unleash Positive Potential) residential weekend. It took place in Manchester and 21 women from across the whole country attended.
There will be more about the event in future newsletters but looking initially at the feedback it has been overwhelmingly excellent and a really well received experience.
What I found personally interesting about the weekend is that it was attended by many women who are living long term with HIV (that is over 15 or 20 years). When we first sought funding for the weekend/s we envisaged that they would be attended by women living with HIV who were more recently diagnosed or who were younger but this has not been the case.
In fact one of the women was talking about her “new” 5 years old diagnosis ……and it does not seem so long ago since anyone that was diagnosed over 5 years was a long term survivor. How times change.
The report is shorter than it has been in previously years and does not separate out the data for women, unfortunately. What it tells us is that, by the end of 2014 85,489 people were seen for HIV care in the UK and 28,142 of these people were women. There were 6151 new diagnoses during 2014 of whom 1,540 were women.
Worryingly the report tells us that two out of five new diagnoses in 2014 had “late stage” HIV, evidenced by a CD4 count under350. Being diagnosed late means a tenfold increased risk of death within a year of being diagnosed. The report details 613 deaths among people living with HIV and says most of these people were diagnosed late.
There is a lot more work to be done to support the expressed needs of women living with HIV, come along and find out more about the work that Sophia Forum does on the 25th of November and help us step into our second decade standing shoulder to shoulder with you supporting us and therefore all women living with HIV across the UK.
Lynda Shentall, Co-Chair