HIV Scotland collaborate with Scottish poet to share poem about his lived experience with the Capital

HIV Scotland has collaborated with poet and writer J William James on billboards which will be featured around the Capital sharing his poem about his lived experience of HIV as part of Book Week Scotland next week.

By Caitlyn Dewar
Saturday, 14th November 2020, 7:00 am
The billboards will be located in places around the Capital such as the Royal Mile
The billboards will be located in places around the Capital such as the Royal Mile

The charity declares that ‘#StoriesMatter’, as it launches James’ poem ‘The Teal Coastguard’ on sites such as the Royal Mile, Meadowbank, Potterrow, Meadowbank and more.

HIV Scotland hopes that creative activism like this will make passers-by stop, read and question the stigma still commonly held about HIV.

People are invited to spot the poem across Edinburgh and share pictures of it on social media with the hashtag #StoriesMatter.

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J William James said: “The symptoms experienced when the HIV virus first replicates itself in the body can take a huge toll, both physically and mentally.

“In ‘The Teal Coastguard’, the speaker describes being visited by singer Shirley Manson in the dazed dreaming of their fever-stricken mind. Like Emma Thompson in ‘Angels in America’ (2003), Shirley appears as an angelic figure in their hour of need.

“She is adorned in the camp aesthetic of the maritime, calling to mind the concluding sequence of Derek Jarman’s ‘The Tempest’ (1979). In the poem, Shirley’s wise words are not her own, they are of course those of the speaker’s subconscious; the speaker understands that HIV need no longer be a death sentence.

“I’m pleased that we can tell stories about living with HIV in ways that aren’t typically public health message, and are far removed from the stigmatising messaging of the 1980s.”

HIV Scotland’s chief executive Nathan Sparling, said: “The lived realities of people living with HIV are complex, but their stories need to be listened to, if we are to break down the unfair stigma still so-often associated with HIV.

“Creative activism is a key part of our toolkit when it comes to reducing HIV stigma in Scotland to zero by 2030.

“People diagnosed with HIV can live long and healthy lives with the huge advances in treatment we’ve seen over the decades, often becoming undetectable; meaning they can’t pass HIV on. We hope the people of Edinburgh take a moment to step into J William James’ words and consider what they believe about HIV.”

The poster campaign will run for across Edinburgh from November 16 until November 29.

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