What we've been up to this month:

May was a memorable month for the chair of the CHIVA Youth Committee. The CYC are a group of young people who live with HIV. We work with them to shape and influence our work, take on campaigns and engage with the media. They run their own twitter account @freedom2spk, campaigning for greater awareness and understanding of children and young people living with HIV and challenging stigma.

The vast majority of children and young people who live with HIV don’t tell wider friends or even extended family members. As such the CYC undertake public campaigning work anonymously.

That all changed in May.

Mercy, the current chair of the CYC, was nominated by CHIVA for a Diana legacy award- in commemoration of the 20 years since Princess Diana died.

Nominations were accepted from around the world for young people who were recognized for their activisim and passionate commitment to making positive contributions to their communities.

Mercy was chosen as one of 20 young people from across the world who would receive a legacy award.

She was invited to St James’s Palace in May to receive her award from Prince’s William and Harry.

She then faced a difficult decision. Should she receive her award openly?

There was to be a lot of press coverage and the interest in covering the ceremony would likely reveal that Mercy lived with HIV, something her fellow students at Uni did not know. Neither did friends from school she had known for years, and people in her wider community.

There were options for her to remain anonymous but following some serious thinking Mercy decided to use the opportunity to have even greater impact on raising awareness about HIV in childhood in the UK and be open about her HIV. It was a huge decision for her. Once made there is no going back. HIV remains highly stigmatised, and sadly there were no guarantees she would not face prejudice and discrimination as a result. But Mercy saw the award as a platform to raise awareness, improve understanding and challenge assumptions held about people living with HIV. 

Mercy was clear that without the support her engagement with CHIVA has given her she would not have felt able to be open about her HIV.

Prior to the award ceremony The Times did a full page article on Mercy’s story which included her photo. So Mercy was at this point open about her HIV publicly for the very first time. Her words after the article was published - "I feel liberated" CHIVA are so proud of Mercy, and have no doubt she will go on to be a powerful advocate for all the other children and young people who grow up with HIV.