Eight in ten young people know that HIV cannot be transmitted by sharing a drink with someone who is HIV positive, yet three quarters say they still wouldn’t do it. Common myths and negative attitudes towards young people with HIV can leave many feeling alienated, alone and stigmatized.

A new campaign, Life In My Shoes, is launched this World AIDS Day by UK charity Body & Soul, which aims to tackle these issues head on and challenge the ongoing issues faced by young people living and affected by HIV in the capital.

Backed by the Mayor of London Boris Johnson, the hard hitting campaign is being officially launched at City Hall by Body & Soul patron and London HIV Ambassador Annie Lennox, and the Mayor’s Advisor for Health and Families Pamela Chesters.

Inspired by the experiences of young people living with HIV, Body & Soul devised the ‘Life In My Shoes’ campaign to educate young people beyond the facts of HIV and to explore their attitudes and behavior around the misconceptions associated with HIV.

Central to the campaign is a film; ‘UNDEFEATED’ based on the real experiences of young people managing the impact HIV has on their lives. A trailer of ‘UNDEFEATED’ – due for launch in 2012 – will be premiered at the City Hall reception.

Commenting on the issues faced by young people with HIV, London HIV Ambassador, Annie Lennox says: “The statistics are staggering; every 80 minutes, someone in the UK is diagnosed HIV positive. More and more children and families are being affected by HIV. Yet in a country where we have access to treatment and care and where we really can do something to make an impact on transmission rates and stigma, why do young people have to live in fear of the social impact of living with HIV? Fear of disclosure is damaging their health. Young people need to feel safe to talk about HIV, to ask questions, to share their experiences.”

The Mayor of London Boris Johnson adds: “With half the HIV positive population in the UK living here in London and a quarter unaware of their status, it continues to be a significant health issue for the capital. As ‘Life in My Shoes’ highlights, stigma remains a critical problem, so this World AIDS Day lets work together to challenge the stigma and prejudice that get in the way of people seeking help and getting tested.” ‘Life in my Shoes’ kicked off early in 2011 with Search for a Star, a competition to give young Britons the chance to star in the feature film, based on the real stories of youth living with HIV.

Supporting the star search were stars from hit TV series Misfits; The
Inbetweeners and a casting panel of film and TV industry experts including Finola Dwyer, John Whiston and Gary Davy. Directed by new London film talent Tudor Payne, and with several surprise celebrity cameos, the Life in my Shoes feature film will give audiences the unique opportunity to see what life is like for Londoners who are HIV positive, experiencing the challenges they face in and out of the classroom

Alongside public screenings of the film next year, ‘Undefeated’ will form part of the unique Life in my Shoes curriculum resource delivered to schools in 2012.

Commenting on the campaign, Body & Soul Director, Emma Colyer stated: “We are immensely proud of the work of the Life in my Shoes team in translating our members’ stories and experiences and bringing them to life through a film. Our aim is to change attitudes, to create greater empathy, to be part of changing the environment our young people have to grow up in. This story needs to be told if we are able to do this.”

Complete information about the Life in my Shoes project is available by visiting
www.lifeinmyshoes.org.

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