Living Positively: It's Time To Break The Stigma And Talk About HIV In Malta, And Here's Where We Can Start
This Monday, head to Paceville for Living Positively, a new way of talking about being HIV+
It's time to update Malta's official attitude towards HIV, and a prominent Maltese LGBTIQ+ NGO is hosting a talk in Paceville featuring an international HIV advocate to get the ball rolling.
Allied Rainbow Communities (ARC) will be hosting Talking Positively, a talk by Christian Vincent, an HIV advocate based in The Netherlands, who will explore his experience of living with HIV, as well as what the local situation is like - and you are invited.
"Upon arriving in Malta, I learned, amongst other things, that there’s no official way to get PrEP,” Vincent said ahead of the talk.
“There’s currently a month-long waiting list to get tested for HIV anonymously, and should one be tested positive, the patient waits up to six weeks for further information and treatment. Treatment is not personalised, with Combivir and Kaletra being used even though they have very strong side effects for most people. And, 'Undetectable = Untransmittable' is practically unheard of," he said.
Christian Vincent, a professional actor, shot to the forefront of HIV+ activism after his 'It's Not Okay' video in response to Russian anti-gay laws
Today, Vincent uses his accumulated experiences as an actor, activist, cartoon translator, kinkster, sex worker (and foremost as a gay man struggling with living up to society's expectations) to share whimsical tales about despair, hopes and dreams, having them crushed, only to rebuild them stronger than ever.
In an interview with Lovin Malta, Vincent had opened up about the day he was diagnosed, and everything he did right after
Clayton Mercieca, the community manager for ARC, said it's time for Malta to update the way it treats and views HIV+ people
“Their feeling is that they are being ‘punished’ by the Government for being HIV+ and are therefore not treated with the appropriate and up-to-date medication to live with dignity. This should not be any different from people who are diagnosed with cancer or diabetes," he said.
"Individuals who are prescribed PEP by Mater Dei Hospital (the emergency cocktail of pills which has to be taken for a month immediately after high risk contact) is charged at a down payment of €550 - this should be given at no cost to the patient or heavily subsidised. Imagine a student on stipend or someone who earns an average wage who needs to keep up with rent and other obligations," he continues.
"PrEP, (which is taken by HIV negative persons in high risk situations) has been proven to drastically reduce the spread of HIV and yet it is difficult to access or made unaffordable here on the island," he said. "In addition, the GU clinic are under-resourced and overworked making it a feat to meet the current service demand, with the waiting list getting longer and longer."