Graduate Story:

Florence Obadeyi

Florence is an activist living in Hull. She campaigns on ending HIV stigma and improving the quality of life for people and their families living with HIV.

I am a woman living with HIV, who has been campaigning since I was diagnosed in 1999. I campaign to end stigma and to improve the quality of life for people and their families living with HIV. As a Peer Mentor at Yorkshire MESMAC, I work as a volunteer to provide services and access to healthcare for people living with HIV. I also volunteer for Terrence Higgins Trust as a public speaker with the Positive Voices Project.

Part of my campaigning and advocacy includes going into schools and community groups talking about my experience living with HIV in order to help people understand those with HIV live normal lives. I promote the idea of U=U (Undetectable = Untransmittable), this means as long as you are taking medication and have an undetectable viral load, it’s possible to stop transmission.

Two years ago, I got an email from National Survivor User Network about Campaign Bootcamp. I applied this year and was accepted with the support of a Paul Hamlyn Scholarship for Migrant Campaigners, which covered all my costs (accommodation, food, tuition and travel to and from Bootcamp, from Hull.)

It was the first time I was in a room with people from very diverse backgrounds. I learned a lot about different people’s lived experiences and campaigns against detention centres, for womens rights in the workplace, tackling mental health and LGBTQ issues.

In my campaigning, I have found people shy away from talking about HIV or have something negative to say. At Bootcamp, I gained the tools and skills to build on my campaign, not only through the workshops but through the people who supported me during the training. I found all the activities we did very useful and I’ll be applying them in my campaigning in different ways, but what I really valued was learning about working with allies and how to get allies on your side.

The entertainment at Bootcamp was an added learning experience. It was interesting to hear the perspective of a drag king called Chiyo, which was something new to me. In a panel discussion, it was interesting to hear about the Windrush from Patrick Vernon, campaigning as a trans person from Sabah Choudrey and campaigning for migrant rights from Sohail Jannesari. It was really inspiring to see it’s possible to be on panels like that educating people about our different campaigns.

Before Bootcamp, I had been interviewed by the media and had my story in newspapers in Yorkshire as well as in Community Magazines. At Bootcamp, I found a particular workshop about the media, where we looked at different ways newspaper headlines and stories created negative and positive impact helpful. It was interesting to see how changing the words and visuals of stories can make different impacts for campaigns and how to explore creative ways of capturing people’s attention.

Since Bootcamp, I found making videos really useful because I’ve been able to bring feedback from the group about messaging to my campaign. It’s helped me do media work and interviews by knowing how to work towards the same aim when working with the media. My story is in a book called “Ripples” – featuring ten other people telling their stories about living with HIV, all people from different backgrounds, experiences and walks of life. HIV does not discriminate.

I’d love to see my campaign in mainstream media such as BBC news. I’d like to see a documentary about people living with HIV, so that people with HIV don’t have to hide. People are scared to talk about it and that’s why I’d like to see a documentary about it on mainstream media that not only educates people about HIV but lets people know about the different types of people it can affect.

For anyone thinking of applying for Bootcamp, I say go ahead it’s going to be a once in a lifetime experience. You’re going to mix with a lot of people and you’ll be linked with a buddy who will look out for you. You’ll learn a lot about how to campaign within a week. Bootcamp aims to support any campaign as long as it’s anti-violent, which is what everyone is trying to achieve. If only the wider world was like the way it was at Bootcamp.

Florence Obadeyi

I am a woman living with HIV. Over the last 19 years I have been involved in campaigning to stop stigma experienced by people living with HIV. Everyone everyone needs to know that U equals U. U=U. Which means that when a person living with HIV is on effective medication they can not pass on HIV as the virus in the body is too little to pass on therefore the person has a undetectable viral load. I want everyone to know this so that the stigma of HIV will hopefully reduce and possibly stop as people will have less fear of HIV.