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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.

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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

What makes a good writer?

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guy_interruptd pondered what to write next

Should I pay attention to the mechanics, or just write from the heart?

Something totally unexpected happened at the gym today. Someone I don’t know all that well came up to me and said “I’ve been reading your blog. You’re a really good writer.”

It’s one thing to have a guy stumble up to you drunkenly and slur “you’re fit, mate,” but quite another to be complimented on something which, to be honest is quite an intimate part of you.

And at the gym of all places! He works in publishing, though, and is one of the very few non-Brazilians there – most of whom think ‘reading’ consists of trying to pick out their friends in amongst the headless torso shots in the back of QX – so I shouldn’t have been all that surprised.

But for a second I didn’t know what to say. I was gobsmacked and flattered.

Someone asked me once to sign a copy of an advert I was featured in as a model.

I couldn’t do it. I’m ashamed to say I cringed.

I didn’t ‘make’ my face. It didn’t require any skill or talent; in fact it was all down to my parents. So I find it hard to accept compliments for just sitting in front of a camera and looking a bit moody for a few hours.

“Tell you what, when I’m a published writer, I’ll sign an article or a book for you.” I said.

And it was true. I’d rather be complimented for a skill or talent than the way my face got put together about thirty-one years ago in my mother’s belly.

Does that make me ungrateful for the way I look? No. I’m eternally grateful that I don’t make small children cry. Especially as I’ve got a six year old boy running around the house (more about that later). But a compliment about something I’ve developed and practiced and regularly put out there for criticism, means far more than an appreciative glance from someone in a bar or changing room.

I write for a living. I know how to craft an attention-grabbing headline, I know that when putting marketing copy together you should always reiterate the intention of the article in the first and second paragraphs. I know about AIDCA. I know how to write for the web, I know when to use ‘that’ and when to use ‘which’ and I know all about SEO, keywords and metadata.

But when I write my blog, all that goes out the window. I don’t care about my Google ranking, I don’t care about structure – I rarely edit. I don’t even mind if I don’t get any page views on the article.

I just write for me. It’s such a joy to have the freedom to write without all those restrictions. So wonderful to put pen to paper and just write what’s in my heart.

So, am I a good writer? Some would say no, some might say yes. But if you’re still here, then I guess I’ve done an OK job this time.

Thanks for reading.

Written by guy_interrupted

December 17, 2009 at 12:54 pm

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