Activism

8 HIV Activists In The UK To Follow On Social Media

These inspiring individuals have dedicated their lives to raising awareness, combating stigma, and supporting those living with HIV.

UK-based HIV activists Marc Thompson, Susan Cole-Haley, and Greg Owen
Photography courtesy of Dwayne Black / Susan Cole-Haley / Sean McGeown

Following the debut of Channel 4's It's A Sin, the number of people getting tested for HIV has reached new heights and the fight against the condition has come back into the spotlight. This fight continues to be a significant chapter of LGBTQ+ history in the UK and at the forefront of it are the activists who bravely share their own knowledge and experience to help educate others, raise awareness, combat stigma, and support those living with HIV.

As of late 2019, it was estimated that there are 105,200 people living with HIV in the UK, 97% of whom are on treatment and virally suppressed — which means levels of the virus in the blood are so low they can't pass it on. With continuing scientific research and highly effective HIV treatments including PrEP (which is now available on the NHS), diagnoses have continued to fall in recent years.

Along with charities, organisations and campaigns such as Terrence Higgins Trust, Aidsmap, National Aids Trust, Positively UK and more, activists up and down the country work tirelessly to ensure people living with HIV gain regular access to vital information relating to their diagnosis, prevention, effective treatments, safe spaces, physical and mental health support, and beyond.

Below, you can find some of the most prominent and inspiring HIV activists on social media today, each of whom plays a pivotal role in the advancement of the fight against HIV and AIDS in the UK.

Jay Hawkridge

Utilising the worldwide reach of social media, Jay Hawkridge is sharing his own experience as a young man living with HIV through innovative, engaging and inspiring online content. Jay is also the founder of the Instagram-centric BPlus, which aims to connect others living with HIV and help change the face of HIV education using concise, bite-sized content.

Susan Cole-Haley

Susan Cole-Haley is an award-winning writer and broadcaster who has been at the forefront of HIV education and activism in the UK for two decades. Previously, Susan has worked for organisations and charities including the National AIDS Trust and currently hosts the live panel discussion series aidsmapLIVE. Elsewhere, Susan recently co-hosted the aidsmapCHAT online series alongside fellow HIV activist, Matthew Hodson, and appeared as a guest on the brand new Aidsmap podcast Tell Me About It.

Greg Owen

Greg Owen is the co-founder of I Want Prep Now, a website formed in 2015 to campaign for accessible pre-exposure prophylaxis medication (PrEP) — a pill that can be taken to effectively prevent HIV infection. In 2017, Greg joined the Terrence Higgins Trust charity and the following year appeared in the BBC-produced documentary, The People Vs The NHS: Who Gets The Drugs?.

Takudzwa Mukiwa

Takudzwa Mukiwa has been a powerful advocate of HIV prevention and treatment for more than a decade, particularly within African communities. Mukiwa currently works for the HIV charity Terrence Higgins Trust and is the founder of Black Men’s Health UK, which aims to change the "unfair and avoidable differences" in Black men's health compared to other groups of men.

Matthew Hodson

Matthew Hodson has been on the front lines of LGBTQ+ activism in the UK for the majority of his adult life. Previously, Hodson was the Chief Executive at the gay men’s health charity (GMFA), and in 2016, Matthew became the Executive Director of Aidsmap (NAM) where he works to ensure the organisation is effective in supporting and informing people living with HIV.

Marc Thompson

In March 2018, Marc Thompson established the non-profit organisation The Love Tank, which aims to promote the health and wellbeing of underrepresented communities using education, research, and beyond. Thompson is also the co-founder of PrEPster (which aims to educate and campaign for PrEP access in the UK) and BlackOut UK — a social enterprise that strives to connect, support and uplift the Black queer community. On top of that, he runs the Instagram account Black & Gay, Back In The Day with his friends and mentee Jason Okundaye. See Bustle's interview with Thompson and Okundaye here.

Jonathan Blake

In 1982, Jonathan Blake became one of the first people to be diagnosed with HIV in the UK. In the years following his diagnosis, Blake has become one of the UK's leading voices in HIV and LGBTQ+ activism, and, in 2015, Blake's involvement in the Lesbians and Gays Support The Miners campaign of the 1980s was depicted in the BAFTA-winning film Pride.

Silvia Petretti

As a woman living with HIV, Silvia Petretti has dedicated much of her life advocating for the human rights of those living with the virus. In 1999, she began volunteering for Positively UK, an organisation that strives to protect the health and well-being of people living with HIV through equal access to health care, peer support, the promotion of positive attitudes, and beyond. In 2019, Petretti was appointed CEO of Positively UK, and has previously worked on the British HIV Association (BHIVA) board and represented the Global Network of People Living with HIV at the UN.