A reason for running

In February I travelled to Bristol with a camera crew to record the work of one of our charities, CHIVA. They support all of the children and young people across the UK that have HIV, providing training for those kids on what HIV is and how to deal with the stigma that most of society has against the infection. They also provide a safe environment where those children can talk with other infected children about their experiences of having HIV.

We entered the school where the session was taking place and were greeted by Amanda, who runs CHIVA along with only one other woman. She explained the format for the day - the children were going to spend some time learning about how HIV works, and would then form groups and explain what they'd learnt to each other using cardboard cut outs. They'd then have a bit of a mess around together, building towers using spaghetti and marshmellows. 

We weren't to film their faces as their identity had to be protected. We'd asked if we could interview them prior to our arrival, and were told that a few had agreed to be interviewed, but only under total anonnymity. 

I watched as the morning progressed, the crew stepping around the children as the talked and drew and built. I sat on a chair in one corner, smiling whenever one of the kids caught my eye, feeling both sorry for them that they had contracted an infection through no fault of their own (HIV is mostly passed down from the mother) but also happy that they were able to come to places like this to share and express and feel unrestrained. 

There was one boy in the group that particularly caught my attention. He was dressed like he was one of the cool kids at school - trendy boots turned down at the top, dark well fitted jeans with a cool belt, a light wollen designer jumper and what seemed like about 5 festival wrist bands on his right arm. He seemed unengaged, sat slumped in silence as Amanda spoke, staring at one point on the floor as she taught them about how HIV affects white blood cells and the consequences of not taking your medication. He didn't care about the cardboard cut outs. He seemed like he just wanted out of the session.

But when the fun activity came around, he came alive. He led from the front on building a tower out of spaghetti, laughing and joking with his friends in the class, encourgaing those that were shy or didn't want to take part. His group won that competition, and after we spoke to him during an interview downstairs. 

He'd contracted HIV from his Mum when he was born. He didn't know what it was and before he knew it he was on medication. But what he then went on to talk about surprised and inspired me. He just wanted to be a normal teenager. He knew about what HIV was and the consequences of what happened from not taking his medicine, but that wasn't important to him. What he cared about was making sure that others knew what he knew - that HIV wasn't that bad, wasn't contagious and could be easy to live with. He was the only person in Plymouth to have the disease, and yet he'd set up talks and meet ups to explain to people what it was all about. He was a member of the CHIVA youth committee and had travelled to foreign countries to talk about the disease. He'd taken the 'HIV' out of 'HIV Positive', and was using it as leverage to talk to people about the reality of the diease in a positive way. To change negative minds, and stigmas and misconceptions. He was 16. 

And that's why he didn't enjoy Amanda's teaching. She was focusing on HIV as a negative thing. During the period when they were building, they were able to come together as a group and enjoy themselves. He only saw the positive in the negative and used it for social good.

This is exactly the attitude that we have at Raise Your Hands. So I'm going to run 1000km for CHIVA (and the other charities that we support), so that Amanda can continue to give that boy the support and guidance he'll need to be able to fulfill his dream. 

Here is the video we made about CHIVA. 

(You can see one of the boy's wrist bands in the picture above that is just hidden, but reads 'Positive'.)