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HIV self tests now available in North thanks to legal change

From yesterday, following a legal move1 made by the North’s health minister, it is now possible to buy HIV self-testing kits and to test yourself for HIV.


Simon Hamilton MLA, health minister in Northern Ireland.

Speaking on World AIDS Day, [Simon Hamilton MLA] said: “The change in the law will allow HIV self-testing kits to be sold to the public in Northern Ireland. Some people are reluctant to get tested for a number of reasons, including stigma and a fear of being judged, so self-testing will have an important role in reaching those who are not using existing services.”—DHSSPS press release 1 Dec 2015.

Testing at home is only one option of many available. There is also the more traditional route of going to the GUM clinic at one of several hospitals, or going to your own General Practitioner. There are also rapid testing projects at The Rainbow Project and Positive Life.

It should be borne in mind, however, that a home test may produce a false positive result or that the test may not be correct because of the window period. False reassurance may be the result and a later additional test may help to reassure.

List of Genito-Urinary Medicine clinics in the North:

  • The Royal Victoria Hospital, Belfast
  • The Causeway Hospital, Coleraine
  • Altnagelvin Hospital, Londonderry
  • Tyrone County Hospital, Omagh
  • Daisy Hill Hospital, Newry

For free advice on opening times of clinics and other assistance you can phone Positive Life’s Freephone Confidential Line on 0800 137 437 (in the UK).


1. The HIV Testing Kits and Services (Revocation) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2015 No. 412. (


We Can. I can. Supporting #WorldCancerDay

HPV (Human Papilloma Virus) is the virus which causes Genital Warts and can lead to oropharyngeal, penile, anal and cervical cancer. At this stage all cis females are vaccinated against the most pervasive strains of HPV at age 14. The idea is/was that as those cis females grew older they would immunise the men they had sexual relations with. What the government did not account for is the number of men who exclusively have sex with men and trans individuals who had transitioned after 14.

As such I am asking you to join the thunderclap to help remind our politicians to support the upcoming motion to immunise all individuals from 14 onwards against HPV.

Please share far and wide to help us maximise this.

Hat tip to James Copeland at The Rainbow Project.

Do you live with HIV in Scotland? Can you help Jemma?

I’ve been contacted by Jemma Campbell who is studying Film and Media at the University of Stirling. She is in her final year and is looking for volunteers to help in her dissertation. In her own words,


Jemma Campbell

Hi, I’m Jemma Campbell, a 4th year Film and Media student at the University of Stirling. For my dissertation, I am making a 12 minute documentary, and would like to focus on the lives of those living with HIV, and their experiences with it. I’m currently looking for participants who are comfortable talking about their experiences on camera, and are based near or within Scotland. Filming will take place in March of this year.

If anyone is interested, or has any questions, please get in touch!

Jemma can be reached by email. She can also provide the details of my tutor at the university if needed.

Good bye to Gibraltar from the cats.

Time for Equal Marriage in Gibraltar

It is time to say Yes to Equality, to say Yes to Love, and to Say No to discrimination against people of the same sex who love each other.

Sitting in Dublin, one could be complacent about Equal Marriage given the constitutional referendum that was held in May to make the change here. However, I am not complacent. I know that in many other places it takes an act of the local legislature to make the change.

hmgog_stacked_new__listing_with_space__mediumHM Government of Gibraltar has published a command paper having

completed drafting amendments to the Marriage Act to enable the consultation process to start on the possibility of legalising civil marriage between same sex couples.

It is, of course, good that the views of the public are taken on board. However, I have been informed that in at least one church in Gibraltar this evening, the congregation was reminded that people ought to voice their opinions for or against same-sex marriage. It is alleged that letters were distributed for the congregation to sign. However, apparently only one version was made available: one that oppose the change in legislation.

Now, it is important that those who support the change do not become complacent.


Danny Feetham MP, Leader of the Opposition in the Gibraltar Parliament. 

Gibraltar may not be having a referendum but that does not mean that they have won the fight for equality. Just because HM Government is in favour, it does not mean that the proposed change in the law will happen. However, I am not suggesting that the Opposition is opposed, for the Leader of the Opposition, Danny Feetham MP, has said (on Facebook) that whilst

gay marriage is not GSD policy and our long standing policy of allowing members of parliament and party members to make their own decisions in matters of conscience continues. Nonetheless, I personally support the principle of same sex marriage and so do my parliamentary colleagues. People are entitled to know what my views are on this and, indeed, my own personal support for the principle of same sex marriage was made clear in an interview with James Neish on radio before the General Election.

He also clarified that

gay adoption has been allowed in Gibraltar by virtue of a Supreme Court decision since April 2013. Anyone concerned that same sex marriage would lead to adoption of children by gay couples, should understand that this is allowed already;

Action needed now

People linked to Gibraltar need to send in their support by emailing

It is time to say Yes to Equality, to say Yes to Love, and to Say No to discrimination against people of the same sex who love each other.


Injectable HIV treatment to begin phase III clinical trials

Perhaps we will be able stop having daily pills and move to bi-monthly injections. Here is hoping…

“Although advancements in treatment have made HIV much easier to manage, the daily dosage of medication can often feel like a burden. Researchers have been working hard to develop new ways treatment can be delivered to those living with HIV to improve adherence and increase viral suppression. Now, ViiV Healthcare and Janssen are one step closer to making life with HIV a lot easier.”

Read the rest at HIV Equal.

Eighty-seven years since he died, my grandfather W. John Rawles lays a wreath on the grave of his uncle John E. Bovey in the British cemetery in Brebières. Photo: Stephen Rawles.

Tears as the boxes arrived and were opened…

Well, today’s tears were the result of receiving some boxes from Calstock​. Boxes mainly of books, but also of a quite nice set of plates, cups and saucers, etc.

But the one item that had me most in tears was a small unused notebook inside a notebook case with the name of John E. Bovey written in it. The notebook itself is inscribed with

Gunner J.E. Bovey, Ammunition Column, RFA Kent.

Who was J. E. Bovey?

Well, quite simply he was my great great-uncle, the uncle of my grandfather W. John Rawles.


Eighty-seven years since he died, my grandfather W. John Rawles lays a wreath on the grave of his uncle John E. Bovey in the British cemetery in Brebières. Photo: Stephen Rawles

He is buried in the British Cemetery in Brebières, near Douai, in northern France. He died on the eleventh day of the eleventh month in the year of our Lord one thousand nine hundred and eighteen – the day that would become known as Armistice Day.

Corporal John E. Bovey died in 1918. His family no doubt on hearing of the Armistice expected him to return to them. Sadly, this was not to be. Unlike so many others, he died not on the battlefield in the middle of action, but of influenza. But he died in France, having gone to war to fight for his King and his country. And he died, aged just 21 years.

My grandfather, William John Rawles was born in 1919 and I understand was named John for his uncle. Although my second Christian name is John and there are reasons for it on both sides of the family, in one way, John Bovey’s name lives on in mine, and those of my cousins Richard and David, who both have John as a second Christian name.

Since I wrote the original post elsewhere (from which that quotation comes) I have changed the name by which I am known from Michael to John, mainly in memory of John E. Bovey, but not just him, but thinking also of various other Johns from around my family history.

Today, I also found in the boxes that arrived a replica King’s Scout badge that I had given my maternal grandfather who had lost his original one. I also got a load of books about printing, typography, and design. Hardly a day goes past when I do not see something and think that my grandfather would enjoy hearing about it. Of course, as he died in 2011 it is impossible to tell him, but now I can learn from some of his books.

And I can enjoy a cup of coffee or tea in the cups that I inherited too.

I miss all my grandparents, I know I was lucky to know them all.

Hugh Campbell, Mary T.P. Campbell (née Carchrie), W. John Rawles, and Catherine E. Rawles (née Bowden) Requiescant in Pace.


Problems using the toilet? Try squatting instead of sitting

If like me you have had problems when using the toilet, feeling a strain to evacuate waste from your body, getting all tensed up, which then makes the problem worse… well there is a solution.

Squatty Potty®

Squatty Potty® is based in the USA, but I am sure there will be ways of getting it here in Europe. Until I find that, I will be try and use something else to do the same job.


“AIDS since the 1980s”: Have you a story to tell?

The lost generation

Paul Coleman and Adam Roberts are making a feature length documentary film that reflects how HIV and AIDS affected gay men, their friends and partners during the first years of the epidemic in the UK before there was effective treatment. Their aim is to interview and record the experiences of 100 people who have been touched by HIV and AIDS. According to government figures, 13,000 mostly gay men died before 1998 when effective combination therapies became widely available in the UK. They want to remember the lost generation of gay men who died during those years as their experience is barely recorded. And they want to tell the stories of those who survived.

Tell your story

Anyone wanting to take part in the film should email the film makers at and leave contact details.  The filming will involve around two hours of your time at a mutually agreed location.  The interview would be informal, usually with a film crew of just two and minimal technical equipment and you will have a chance to share your experiences in a safe environment.


Misinformation on HIV transmission from Mirror, MEN, and GMP

Both the Mirror and the Manchester Evening News have published outrageously misinformed reports regarding a charity worker

facing an anxious New Year as she waits for tests results to find out if she has contracted the disease after being assaulted on Tuesday night.

Manchester Evening News

The two stories have similar headlines:


Charity worker spat at by HIV-positive homeless man vows to carry on volunteering



Charity worker waits for test results after HIV-positive homeless man spat in her face

However, I am sure the journalists involved (Beth Abbit and John Kelly) will simply say that they were reporting the story as told to them. However, I am equally sure that they would be aiming to abide by the code of conduct of the NUJ (regardless of whether they are members of not). This code of conduct states that

A journalist:

  1. At all times upholds and defends the principle of media freedom, the right of freedom of expression and the right of the public to be informed.
  2. Strives to ensure that information disseminated is honestly conveyed, accurate and fair.
  3. Does her/his utmost to correct harmful inaccuracies.

I am not convinced that the stories above meet both point 2 and point 3. But it is not just the journalists that need to check their facts

Advice from Police seems faulty


It seems that the Greater Manchester Police advised the victim to take an HIV test incase the assailant had problems with his gums and therefore blood in his mouth. However, this is not a route of HIV transmission. The virus cannot be transmitted through saliva (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).

The National AIDS Trust (in the UK) wants to reassure people that spitting is not a route of HIV transmission. A spokesman said,

There has never been a reported case of HIV transmission from spitting – even when there is blood in the mouth.

As I commented on the MEN story,

Very disappointed to read this misleading article. Whilst I appreciate that you are reporting what has been told to you by the victim, it would be better to make clear earlier in the story that spitting is not a route of HIV transmission. You may find it useful to liaise with the National AIDS Trust who have a great document of guidelines on how to report issues surrounding HIV.

I hope that both papers and the police take more care in the future.

The two stories can be found here:

Daily Mirror:

Manchester Evening News: