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Why I’m an activist (and why you should be too)

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Press launch for Body Shop/UNAIDS Be An Activist campaign

With Boris Johnson at the campaign's launch at City Hall

I can’t quite describe how it feels to be standing six feet from Annie Lennox, as you have your photo taken by one of the world’s top fashion and portrait photographers.

The fact that I was doing it for an amazing cause made the whole experience even more special.

This year, The Body Shop has teamed up with UNAIDS and photographer Rankin for a global World AIDS Day campaign called Be An Activist. It showcases activists of all ages and races, from all walks of life, from popstars and CEOs, to your average man on the street, like me.

In a world where treatments are improving and AIDS is becoming less of a killer, sadly, people are becoming more complacent. Ignorance is high. Lack of education is a constant problem, and as a result, infections continue to rise.

This is why I’m so honoured and passionate to be a part of a campaign which reinvigorates the message that HIV is always out there, and it doesn’t discriminate.

Arm yourselves with the knowledge to protect yourself and make safer decisions, and let’s end the stigma surrounding HIV — and hopefully one day, eradicate the virus itself.

Below is a transcript (and a shaky video!) of the keynote I delivered (along with my best mate Emma) at the campaign’s press launch on 29th November 2010.

World AIDS Day is on December 1st, and I urge you all to stand with me and wear your red ribbon with pride.

I am proud to be an activist. Join me, and be an activist too.

————————————————

Every morning, I wake up, and the first thing I do after throwing the alarm clock across the room, is go to the bathroom, where I carefully place two bits of plastic onto my eyeballs so I can see properly.

Yes, I’m short sighted. Shocking, isn’t it? I mean, you wouldn’t know unless I told you. But yep, I genuinely can’t see my hand in front of my face without my lenses.

Being short sighted isn’t my fault; it’s just something that happened to me.

An hour later, before I leave the house for work, I tip four small tablets into my hand and knock them back with a glass of milk. To help my immune system cope with the effects of the HIV virus.

So there’s two things you wouldn’t guess from just looking at me. But only one of those things has the potential to change the way I’m perceived by other people.

We’ve been brought up to believe HIV is ‘unclean’ and that the people who carry the virus are somehow lesser beings, to be feared and ostracised. But I’m not, I’m innocent, I’m just like you.

I’m the person who gave you his seat on the tube. The guy who smiled at you when you bumped into him because you were walking along engrossed in your phone. I work with you, I cross the road with you. I’m not locked away in some dark corner of a hospital, gaunt, dying and covered in lesions. Every day, you come into contact with HIV+ people — you just don’t know it. And we’re not evil, we were just unlucky.

I hope one day, World AIDS Day is a day to reflect on the past and feel grateful that we live in a world free of stigma, a world where people can go about their lives without feeling they have to hide their status. I hope it becomes a time to remember those who lost their lives to the disease, and to thank those who developed treatments, and maybe one day even a cure.

Being an activist doesn’t mean you have to run a marathon. It doesn’t mean you have to march in a parade with a banner. You don’t have to stand behind a lectern at City Hall and deliver a speech. It can be something as simple as pinning a red ribbon to your jacket as you make your way to work. It’s an act of compassion towards a fellow human being. It says, “I’m with you on this’. Because after all, ten thousand voices whispering can be a whole lot louder than one person shouting.

I’m so proud to be a part of this campaign, to stand alongside such inspiring people and finally put a face to HIV. I hope that by sharing my story, I can empower people to take control of their health, get tested regularly and protect themselves from this virus.

I’m not ashamed of who I am, and I’m not afraid to be honest. And I will carry on holding my head up and fighting on behalf of those who live in fear so that we can finally end stigma once and for all.

My name is Kristian Johns, I’m HIV positive. And I refuse to hide, because I shouldn’t have to.

———————————————–

The exhibition at City Hall runs until December 7th 2010

Full pictures from the campaign

Shots from the press launch day

Written by guy_interrupted

November 29, 2010 at 6:10 pm

13 Responses

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  1. The first photo’s I saw this morning of you K at the campaign launch at City Hall in Lodon, my eyes filled up! to see you standing by the poster of yourself was *Special* no wonder you feel proud to Be An Activist! and so many of us are Proud of You as well, are there giving you 110% support and are humble to Be an Activist with you, Our Dear Special late friend CW will be looking down and saying Wow!

    It is also so good to have the chance to read the speech you delivered, I feel guilt that at one time I was one of those who was ignorant, before I met Clint around 2000 I remember the first Gay bar I went into being worried about drinking out of a glass, yes I wiped it quickly, how bad I feel now.

    Like You I will work tirelessly to ensure the message and awareness is delivered now just on World Aids Day 1 December but each and every day of the year.

    I have so much respect for you and always will.

    John B Sheffield

    November 29, 2010 at 6:20 pm

  2. Great post as always, thank you for being an inspiration and having such a great outlook on life.

    Jorge

    November 29, 2010 at 6:22 pm

  3. Was an honour to be there with you both today xx

    Richieinlondon

    November 29, 2010 at 6:23 pm

  4. Very inspirational speech, to be honest I had never gone and got myself tested as probably had the same mentality as others have that it would never happen to me, but after reading your blog I went to the local sexual health clinic and got myself tested and thankfully everything came back negative.

    You’re a shining example to others out there and just hope someday I could shine as bright!

    Dom T

    November 29, 2010 at 6:48 pm

  5. You are officially my hero!

    Kevin

    November 29, 2010 at 7:01 pm

  6. The transcript of your speech is one of the most moving pieces of work that i have read in a long while, i have ordered all of my students to take a look at your blog. I hope that by them reading the piece it will make them stop, think and remember.

    jason perkins

    November 29, 2010 at 7:27 pm

  7. Great blog…reblogging like mad x

    rick

    November 29, 2010 at 7:33 pm

  8. It took me a couple of months for me to come to terms with my diagnosis, it took me the better part of 12 months to feeling strong enough to start telling those close to me. My aim is to be as open as you are now, and as open as some of my friends are who have recently worked on similar campaigns for other recognised charities for world aids day. I know I don’t have to. I know I could quite easily blend into the background; no one can tell I’m HIV by looking at me, but I know now that I want to. im not there yet, im sure I soon will be. but until then, it is people like you and my friends who inspire me to be more and more open about my status everyday – even if for now, that is merely me opening up to one more friend.

    So thank you.

    kidwithnoname

    November 30, 2010 at 12:07 am

  9. Another great post, Krisian :) Well-written as all the others I’ve read: great speech :) And what great friends you two are :)

    Lovely to hear your voice :)

    Justin

    November 30, 2010 at 1:47 am

  10. As your Mum I have had over the past 31 years, many reasons to be proud of you ( and some where I could have easily throttled you! ) but none more so than today when I watched the video and read your blog and the full impact of the message you are putting across hit me.

    This is MY SON and he is turning what is seen as a negative into a POSITIVE and using your HIV positive status to try to change the views of others about this disease.

    So I am going to march straight into Body Shop here in Lanzarote tomorrow and buy my red ribbon pin and tell the assistants with pride that it is my son on the poster, and I shall wear my red ribbon to show the world that I am POSITIVE along with you. POSITIVE in the knowledge that you are doing such good work for the benefit of others.

    My name is Cheryl Noad and I am POSITIVE MY SON that you are worthy of my pride.

    I love you Mum xxxxxxxxxxxxx

    Mum

    November 30, 2010 at 2:44 pm

  11. Great piece and the campaign looks really effective…. your call to people to get involved…. get tested etc is bang on. Well done..xx

    Vincent from Belfast

    December 1, 2010 at 9:12 am

  12. I love what you wrote. I wish more people had your insight.

    All the best.

    tony4sure

    December 2, 2010 at 1:34 am

  13. Such an inspiring speech. Thank you for touching my soul.

    Neil J Lloyd

    December 15, 2010 at 12:58 pm


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