I am just back from Newcastle where we held the PozFem Northern meeting. We were more then 20 women, most from the North of England, but also from Scotland and Northern Ireland.
We spent two days talking about our experiences of stigma. After completing the Stigma Index questionnaires we discussed in small groups our concrete experiences. As soon as we started a young woman who lives in Manchester took out a mobile phone and showed a picture. It was her car with written in large red letters HIV…AIDS. Somebody in her neighborhood did it. She woke up one morning and saw it when she looked out of the window. Her children were with her and were asking questions she would have rather not answered. She told us of her effort not to show her emotions, her anger, to her children, so as to not upset them. Luckily it was water based paint and she was able to wash it off. After a few days she looked out of the window and the writing on the car was back. This time it was a glass based indelible white paint. The police have not been able to do anything about it. Even if the young woman has suspicions on who did it, they need an eye witness to prosecute. All the neighbors saw the car and the news spread rapidly around. Some sided with her, some against her: they didn’t want somebody with HIV living next door. The tension and the fear grew. The young woman and her two small children had to move house. This has happened this year in the UK. It is is only one of the horrific stories I have heard in Newcastle this weekend.