World AIDS Day: UoM graduate living with HIV busts some myths

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Kieran Yates graduated from the University of Manchester in 2019 with an MSc in Medical Virology. Since then he has gone on to become a trustee for George House Trust, a charity which provides HIV support, advice and advocacy services. Earlier this year Kieran created Positive + Proud, to share information, resources and his own personal experience of living with HIV.

Kieran answers some questions and bust some myths about HIV below, ahead of World AIDS Day on Thursday 1 December.

Can you have a sexual relationship or children if you’re living with HIV?

HIV can be controlled by medication. If someone is undetectable, meaning the amount of HIV viral copies in their blood is below a certain level, they cannot transmit the virus to others. This includes during sex and child birth. ‘U=U’ (Undetectable = Untransmitable) and this allows people living with HIV to lead normal lives, pursue relationships and create families.

Are condoms the only way to protect from HIV transmission?

Condoms are an effective way of practicing safe sex to reduce the risk of HIV exposure. In addition to condoms you can take HIV preventative medicine known as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). PrEP is available as a tablet and is taken before sex to help reduce your risk of acquiring HIV. For more information on PrEP and to enquire to receive PrEP on the NHS, contact your local sexual health clinic. For students living in Manchester you can visit: https://thenorthernsexualhealth.co.uk.  

Is HIV still a death sentence?

Thanks to the incredible advancements in treatment, HIV is no longer a death sentence. HIV is classed as a long term manageable medical condition. Those living with HIV take daily medication and attend regular check-ups to monitor their treatment and condition. This means that those living with HIV often don’t need to worry about their health, meaning they can focus on living their lives.

Where can people living with HIV receive support?

If you’re living with HIV and would like to seek support you can contact George House Trust. George House Trust is an organisation based in Manchester that provides services to people living with, and affected by HIV including: one to one advice, counselling and group services allowing people to meet others living with HIV.

As an alumni of the University of Manchester, how has your degree led to your work surrounding HIV?

I decided to study my MSc in Medical Virology at the University of Manchester following my diagnosis with HIV. Although I wasn’t sure at the time what I wanted to do, I knew I wanted to learn and understand more about HIV and other viruses that cause illness.

During my studying I was also volunteering for George House Trust. The knowledge learnt from the degree empowered my volunteering as I was able to share the newfound knowledge and spread awareness of HIV. Following my degree, I’ve continued to share that knowledge, which has enabled me to join the board of trustees at George House Trust, where I can work to ensure the organisation continues to function and support others living with HIV. My degree has also resulted in me setting up POSITIVE + PROUD in the last year.

What is POSITIVE + PROUD and how can we get involved?

POSITIVE + PROUD is a new project I’ve set up to continue raising awareness for HIV. Through the use of social media I’m utilising this project to share information, resources and my own personal experience of living with HIV. I also want to use this venture to show the world that it’s okay to be living with HIV and help to empower others to feel more confident with their own HIV diagnosis. We’d love your help by following us on social media to learn more about HIV and to share the knowledge with your friends and family. You can follow us on Instagram and TikTok: @positive.and.proud.

  • Rapid HIV tests will be available at the Students’ Union on Friday 2 and Monday 5 December.