Kingston University held an HIV awareness day at the Penrhyn Road campus offering free advice and support about the killer virus.

KU push for better awareness of HIV

Kim Richters

When Alex fell ill he suffered from flu-like symptoms of high fever, nausea and diarrhoea.

Alex (whose name has been changed) was surprised when a doctor suggested he should be tested for HIV, as he had never imagined that he could have contracted the virus.

In March this year, the KU student found out that he was HIV positive.

“No words can describe it, you go into shock and everything goes blank,” said Alex. “You process it in your brain and you think it’s the end of the world, but it’s really not. You have to take in so much information, it’s impossible.”

He had had sex with a man who was in a relationship with an unknowingly HIV-positive partner. “We had an accident during sex and I most probably contracted the virus that way,” he said.

Support for students at HIV awareness day at Penrhyn Road

The day before this year’s World AIDS Day, Kingston University Students’ Union collaborated with KU’s Health and Counselling service to set up the event ‘Respect & Protect’.

Students were able to get tested for HIV and other sexually transmitted infections, as well as given advice and support from professionals for free at Penrhyn Road Health Centre. Volunteers also offered free condoms and raised money for the Terrence Higgins Trust, a charity which supports victims of HIV and AIDS.

KUSU’s vice president student life, Lucy Williams, said: “The point of the day is firstly to raise awareness about sexual health and how to avoid catching anything, and the second is to say to those who have been affected that there’s nothing to be ashamed of, you’re not alone, and there is support out there.”

But attention and interest in the virus, and the acquired immune deficiency syndrome it can evolve into, have decreased and many people do not know much about the illness.

Exhibition to help raise money for charity

Fine art student TJ Palmer is one of several artists who organised an exhibition to raise money for the Positive East charity, which supports and advises people suffering from HIV or AIDS, living in East London.

Mr Palmer said: “East London has some of the highest rates of HIV infection in the UK, particularly among the heterosexual community. The money raised will go towards enabling people to live well with HIV through promoting health and well-being by addressing a range of practical and psycho-social issues.”

Around 30,000 people in London and 100,000 people in the UK are believed to be HIV positive.

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