The night before International Women’s Day, I volunteered behind the bar at “A Catwalk for Power, Resistance and Hope”, a fabulous fashion show for women with HIV organised by ACT UP London Women (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power), and Positively UK, an organisation that runs peer-led support groups for people with HIV.
After a poetry reading by the incredibly talented writer and motivational speaker Bakita, these women led the call and response chants, derived from the anti-apartheid movement, of “THE POWER! – IS OURS!” and “AMANDLA! – NGAWETHU!” in front of a packed-out house at London’s Brixton East. Then the main show began: 25 women with HIV strutted their stuff on the runway with confidence, humour and pride.
In her introduction, Silvia Petretti, an AIDS activist and deputy CEO of Positively UK, described how this fashion show was a huge step for women with HIV. “Openness about HIV can lead to being harshly rejected, and even being at the receiving end of violence,” she said. Positively UK was founded in 1987 (then called “Positively Women”) by two women with AIDS who had noticed the paucity of services for women with HIV, most of which were responding to the devastating impacts of AIDS on the gay community.
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