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Jimmy Isaacs (pictured right), 28, shares the latest from the second week on tour.  With four others, Jimmy is  speaking at events up and down the country to talk about living with HIV. Cover image credit:  @theomcinnes

At time of writing I have been diagnosed 955 days, 22,032 hours, and if we’re being exact 1,375,990 minutes as of 12pm Thursday February 23rd 2017.

It still ain’t over.

Week two on the Youth Stop AIDS Speaker Tour has seen a flurry of travel, a flurry of decision-makers and a flurry of snow. As I write we’re on a train from Glasgow to Dundee for our last date in Scotland before returning to London.

Newcastle, 20 February

We had a friendly turnout in Newcastle with a lot of very relevant questions. But one thing that is being echoed again and again is just how important education is and much it is needed everywhere we have toured.

Education is vital.

It is the key to tackling stigma.

It is the key to reducing transmission and new infections.

To help facilitate change across the world, change must start from home. In the UK, the lack of a national campaign for now 30 years is starting to have a very real impact on society, and although many charities are doing some fantastic work, we are still struggling immensely.

Glasgow, 22 February

Scotland has also been fruitful with my outreach work on Grindr. Glasgow saw two guys approach me both scared of testing, having never tested due to fear of stigma and fear of a positive result. One of the men had had a very real and risky experience two years ago with likely exposure to unmanaged HIV, and he still has not tested due to the fear of stigma. He’s living in fear, and he’s potentially one of the 35,000 who don’t know they’re HIV positive. Complacency and stigma are still big killers and it is still happening on our front door step.

Another conversation with a friend who had moved up to Glasgow pointed out how much stigma existed in the city’s gay community, with people having to continually change their online dating profiles through fear of backlash for their status.

Stigma is still a huge issue and one that just isn’t going away.

Scotland has been phenomenal.

It’s been scenic.

It’s been a very firm reminder to me that ‘It Ain’t Over”.

It’s been friendly as well as haunting.

But it’s been scary as well as daunting.

Political backing

The tour has been powerful in so many other ways, though.

In Holyrood we found ourselves seated and talking about our campaign and personal stories with Scottish Labour Leader Kezia Dugdale, Alex Cole Hamilton MSP the Health spokesperson for the Liberal-Democrats, John Smythe MSP, and Richard Lyle MSP. All 4 MSP’s were very attentive and interested in what we had to say and supportive in pursuing our targets further. A Cross Party Parliamentary Group are now looking at putting forward a motion in support of the “It Ain’t Over” campaign.

On Wednesday morning we paid a trip to the Department for International Development (DFID) to talk to them about our experiences and to have an open conversation on what more can be done. Because there is so much more that can be and that needs to be if we are to keep on track with ending AIDS by 2030.

DFID are a key stakeholder in the global HIV response and we need a serious renewal of our current political, programmatic, and financial leadership. DFID were very supportive of us taking the time to come and see them and listen to our stories.

Horcelie has also really come out of her shell, and it’s been a beautiful thing to witness, throughout this tour she’s been talking publicly for the first time about her HIV and watching her grow in confidence and strength telling her story has been both warming and inspiring. And there’s a whole other world to HIV that I’ve learned from her.

It Ain’t Over.

Find out more about the Youth Stop AIDS Speaker Tour and sign up to an event near you.

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