How it feels to be a positive speaker for policy change

After addressing a conference of professionals earlier this year about his life with HIV, one of our newest speakers, David, said: “I thought it was amazing. Therapeutic, yes. Empowering, yes. Liberating and energising too. As I walked away afterwards, for the first time in a long, long while, I was the person I used to be back in the days when I felt I'd actually achieved something positive with my day. I was walking tall! As someone who's quite driven it also has made me more determined to get the message out. I also feel a lot less isolated now.

"If you're trying to encourage others to volunteer as a speaker, I would tell them one simple thing - however much you are scared of doing it for the first time, do it. You will feel amazing afterwards.”

Here at HIV Scotland we know that personal stories are the strongest way to engage policy and decision makers, and help them appreciate the challenges people living with or at risk of HIV face. Hearing directly from someone living with HIV about the impact that a policy or practice has on them brings an issue to life.

With this in mind, the Positive Speakers Bureau was set up: a group of people living with HIV willing to talk about their experiences directly with decision makers, from MSPs and councillors, to commissioners and clinicians.

The feedback and impact speakers have already had has been fantastic – with policy makers and decision-making audiences responding very well and brining positive change closer to reality. Speakers themselves tell us they find the experience of sharing their stories and being heard valuable and empowering.

After addressing a conference, experienced bureau member Michael said: “This was the latest in a growing list of public engagements I’ve had talking about HIV to key professionals. The whole panel of positive speakers were given universal praise by those present at the event. This success was achieved by the honest and sometimes humorous detail of the content presented.

"It was in no small part down to the excellent training we all received from HIV Scotland on the speakers program. I believe I speak for all involved when I say that the speaker’s training program is a well constructed training course and gives confidence to those who take part. It’s empowering to have the tools and skills to make a presentation to a filled room of strangers and very satisfying to receive appreciation for your efforts.”

-

Next week, in the run up to World AIDS Day, members of the bureau will address MSPs at the ‘Scotland: What Will You Do About HIV?’ parliamentary reception at Holyrood, as part of our work to raise awareness about HIV and encourage discussion among politicians about what Scotland will do about HIV when the current ‘Sexual Health and Blood Borne Virus Framework’ comes to a close early next year.

Please contact us to join us at the parliamentary reception, to become a positive speaker or to enquire about having a member of the bureau address a meeting of decision makers or relevant professionals you are organising that could help make Scotland a better place for people living with or at risk of HIV.