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Pupil report: Our first current affairs talk of the term

Emma Cole visited Bryanston to speak to us about her experiences and answer our questions about Human Immunodeficiency Virus, more commonly known as HIV (I didn’t know that was what it stood for until the talk).

Emma told us about how she has been living with HIV for nearly 30 years – known as a long-term survivor – and it was incredibly informative as she explained that it can affect or infect anybody. When she was infected, she decided to take on the mindset she would beat the timeline of 10 years given to her by doctors. She mentioned that she went on the antiretroviral drugs to prevent further infection of others and reduce the risk of sickness to herself.

Her talk was honest and, at times amusing, as she explained her relationship history and her first boyfriend coming out as gay, much to her dismay and surprise I’m sure. The boyfriend that passed it on to her died some years ago, but she is now happily engaged.

She ran through the typical questions that she often gets asked, such as ‘What does HIV mean?’ and ‘How is it different to AIDS?’.

It was emotional when she was telling the story of her diagnosis and about how she informed her family. When she first became infected, she explained the period of disbelief, as the assumption at the time was that only haemophiliacs and gay men developed HIV. But after being tested, they stated the blood tests weren’t contaminated and she was from that day on, HIV positive. While living with HIV was a daily challenge, Emma’s experience with her family was incredibly difficult to hear. Her mother didn’t allow her into the family house for several years, due to the stigma surrounding this illness. Her mother was also incredibly embarrassed about Emma’s development of HIV and they lost contact after Emma spoke about it on TV for the BBC.

Emma was incredibly open but reminded us all that we need to be aware of the risks and the safety precautions we must take.

Emma ran the London Marathon in 2017 in under six hours, she wears a HIV-positive t-shirt and talks at over 100 schools annually about her story to help raise awareness and remove the stigma surrounding HIV. She not only raised awareness for all of us but also showed that you can always have a positive outlook on life. She has done all that she can to reduce discrimination against HIV positive people and it was a great introduction to Current Affairs in A2.

By A2 pupil Pia S.