Creatove activism is a strand of our work that we hope will empower and benefit people living with and affected by HIV, while highlighting issues they face, in a pubic-facing way, in order to combat stigma. We are aided by our Artist-in-Residence Angie Spoto in this realm of HIV Scotland's work.

The Positive Stories Project

Throughout 2018, a series of creative writing workshops for people living with HIV (under the umbrella term of 'The Positive Stories Project') were organised to empower people living with HIV to use their experiences to write fiction and non-fiction stories about life living with HIV. A mentorship programme that paired people living with HIV with professional writers was also established to further develop the skills of participants, and meaningfully bring out their voice in the stories. Each story was paired with a policy topic so that readers of the final product could learn facts about HIV.

This community-led work has touched many readers. The final product was a book, Disclosures, that explores the themes of joy, grief, love, fear and hope – and the stories contained within were written by people living with and affected by HIV. The book gathered widespread coverage in the press, and support by Members of the Scottish Parliament which amplified the message: being HIV positive today is completely different from how it was thirty years ago. 19 people were able to use their own voices to reshape the narrative around HIV and take part in creative activism.

Disclosures is a book that displays a snapshot of the experiences from a diverse group of people living with and affected by HIV. Many stories that were created during the process never made it on to the pages of the book, because the impact of HIV-related stigma and the fear of retribution was too large a burden for many participants. This book and the work that will continue will empower people affected by HIV to use their words in creative activism against the myths and misconceptions of HIV and truly end HIV-related stigma. Our next steps are to broaden the scope of the work, moving from the pages of a book into the digital world – utilising podcasts, video and online blogs to expand our reach. This work is the beginning of a movement, not an endpoint.

Disclosures can be purchased from Stewed Rhubard Press

Digital Storytelling

Our next Creative Activism project will utilise Digital Storytelling techniques, developed by The Scottish Book Trust, to encourage workshop participants to bring their story to the screen. Participants will use creative writing and storyboarding techniques to write a real-life story, which they will then craft into a short film using images and their own voices. Participants will have the option to share their film with the public at a public viewing (and later, with permission, social media, their own and ours)Our first project of this sort takes place in November 2019 and in particular aims to amplify the voices of women, whose experiences with HIV are often overlooked. This event will be open to those living with or affected by HIV and who identify as a woman or non-binary.

This event is hosted by HIV Scotland as part of the Disclosures Digital project, which aims to challenge HIV stigma through providing safe spaces for those living with or affected by HIV to tell their stories and share them with the public. 

Participants with all levels of digital skill/literacy are encouraged to take part. If you have found lack of profiency in digital or online skills a barrier in the past, this workshop will help you begin to overcome that barrier.

This workshop is being held with thanks to the Digital Storytellers of The Scottish Book Trust

We plan on expanding this workshop to new locations and shifting focus to more demographics over time, creating a library of powerful, stigma-busting digital stories.