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The Bloomsbury Clinic in the News: Islington Life

Bloomsbury Network lead, Geoffrey Milton was e for Islington Life. Read the full text of the article below:

Geoffrey Milton leads a support network for people living with HIV. He also offers mediation support to people experiencing stigma in the workplace through his company, All About People (AAP). He talks to lslingtonlife about his drive to help others, where HIV-positive people can get support locally, and how to look after your sexual health 

Tell us a bit about yourself. What inspired you to become a sexual health advocate? 

About 15 years ago, I became HIV positive. As a result of that, I heard about the Bloomsbury Network. It's a charity that provides support, education and outreach to people living with HIV. I attended a programme, which at the time was called The Newly Diagnosed Course, now renamed The Beyond Diagnosis course. This explains all about how best to live with HIV, how to tell friends and family, and how the drug treatments support you. There is also a section on HIV and the law and stigma. 

My professional background is in human resources, so I've always enjoyed working with people. After starting treatment, I really wanted to give something back to the community, so I started volunteering as a member of the charity's steering committee. A few years ago, the chair retired and I took on the position. 

What support is available locally for people living with HIV? 

People can of course get in touch with us at the Bloomsbury Network - we have nearly 1,000 members - and we run loads of online forums, workshops, and social events, like summer picnics and Christmas parties, that people can attend. We work closely with NHS colleagues and the peer support team at the Bloomsbury Clinic, which is based at the Mortimer Market Centre. 

Beyond the Bloomsbury Network, there is a wide range of other support available in Islington. We have the candiNETWORK, which is a group of organisations that's funded by Camden and Islington councils to provide online and face-to-face support. It includes services for counselling, life-coaching, diet and nutrition, wellbeing groups, self-management programmes, events, and gym-based work. 

It really can help with all aspects of life. 

What can people do to stay safe if they are sexually active? 

The most important message is that anyone can get HIV. People sometimes see it as a disease that only impacts certain communities in society, but what we are seeing now is that people of all sexualities and ethnicities are becoming HIV positive. So, if you are sexually active, you need to get a regular checkup. You have a duty and a responsibility not only to yourself, but also to the people you are having sex with, to get tested regularly. 

Using condoms correctly every time you have sex also helps to keep you protected from HIV and other infections. There's also a medicine called pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) that people can take to reduce their risk of getting HIV. 

How is HIV usually treated? 

There is a concept in the sexual health community known as U=U, undetectable = untransmittable. This means that, with the right ongoing treatment, monitoring and medication, HIV is untransmittable - in other words, you can't pass it on to others. Obviously no one should assume this is the case without being told by a medical professional. Still, it's amazing to see that treatment for HIV has come such a long way. 

It is extremely important for the public to understand how effective HIV treatment is now, because it should encourage people to get tested so they know their status, and to help combat stigma and misinformation. If you want to know more about it, contact your local sexual health clinic for confidential and non­judgemental support. 

How does stigma affect people living with HIV? 

Sometimes negativity about HIV comes from others, but it can also be internalised - that is, coming from your own feelings and biases. Unfortunately, some people think that only certain groups of people can get it and sometimes even make moral judgements about people who live with HIV. The truth is, this comes from a lack of information. We can all help end the stigma through our words and actions in our everyday lives. Talking openly about HIV can help normalise the subject. 

The most important thing to know if you do get a positive diagnosis is that you are not alone. 

For support with HIV in Islington, contact the Bloomsbury Clinic on 020 3317 5100 or visit the Bloomsbury Network website: Contact the candiNETWORK on 020 3137 3373 or visit the website: