There is an old cliché that if you love what you do, you will never work a day in your life.
Believe it or not, there are people out there who love politics and public policy. I am one of them, because I have always seen politics as a way to make the world a better place. I’m fortunate that leading BIG’s public affairs and government engagement advice to our clients gives me the opportunity to do something that I genuinely love every day of the week.
I am also fortunate to work for a company that supports its employees to follow their passions and make an impact. As well as charity fundraisers and sponsorship, every BIG employee is given a day off a year to spend their time volunteering for a charity of their choosing.
This year, I chose to volunteer with a cause that is particularly close to my heart: Waverley Care’s #GetToZero campaign.
Founded at the height of the HIV/AIDS crisis in 1989, Waverley Care has been leading the campaign to end new transmissions of HIV in Scotland by 2030.
How is that possible?
Forty years after the first cases of HIV were diagnosed, what it means to live with HIV has changed.
There have been truly remarkable advances in medical care which means that HIV is no longer a death sentence. In fact, someone living with HIV can lead a long, happy, healthy life. I should know – I am HIV positive.
My medication doesn’t just keep me healthy, it helps me protect others. Today, people living with HIV who are undetectable cannot pass the virus on to others. We call this ‘undetectable equals untransmittable’. In Scotland, 95% of people in Scotland who are living with HIV and on successful treatment have are undetectable.
These powerful advances in medical treatment also help protect those who are at risk of HIV. Medication which helps prevent transmission – called PrEP – is now widely available on the NHS in Scotland to those at risk of infection.
And HIV testing – so people can know their status – is more accessible than ever before.
We now have all the tools in the box that we need to end new HIV transmissions in Scotland. Working with the Scottish Government, Waverley Care is leading the charge on a new strategy to make Scotland one of the first countries in the world to achieve zero new HIV transmissions.
But there is much to do to make this a reality. Misinformation and stigma are now the biggest challenges.
On a sunny day in August, I was proud to play my small part. Since 1992, Waverley Care has had a partnership with The Pleasance theatre, allowing the charity to raise money in the venue during the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Since the partnership began, over £600,000 has been raised to support people living with HIV in Scotland. But perhaps the biggest impact of the partnership is the opportunity that it provides to have stigma-busting conversations with people from all over the world in one of the Fringe’s busiest venues.
Of course, your activism doesn’t end when you give back your card machine and your bucket, now overflowing with spare change, at the end of a volunteering shift. It is the conversations you have every day – at home, in the pub, in the workplace – that all add up to the positive change in how we view HIV, not just as individuals but as society.
You can learn more about Waverley Care’s #GetToZero campaign here: https://www.waverleycare.org/policy-research/gettozero/Back to blog