On 1st November 2018, I took over as Chief Executive at HIV Scotland. I'm not going to lie, it was a daunting prospect. I'd never seen myself wanting to be a Chief Executive, and the organisation had been through quite a lot of trouble in the previous six months. I was worried that the rumours of HIV Scotland closing down would become true - and I'd be the one in charge when it happened. 

Fast forward to 1st November 2019. Today, we're about to host the launch of the Care Inspectorate's new standards for people living with HIV in social care. It's part of our new stream of work, Living Well:50+, which was a direct ask from our Advisory Network of people living with HIV. We're live-streaming the seminar to reach even more people, and provide a resource to practitioners to reduce stigma and keep us on the path to zero HIV. 

The last year has been tough, but we've managed so much: 

  • A tour of Scotland to engage people living with HIV in our Strategic Development - 118 turned up to our events. 
  • We launched our plan for Scotland - #ZEROHIV - alongside our new branding, values, website and public awareness campaign. 
  • Glasgow signed up to become the first Fast-Track City in Scotland after our work bringing the sector together. 
  • New resources for schools were published that included information about PrEP, HIV & U=U after we lobbied the Scottish Government. 
  • We got our first corporate partner - Kimpton Charlotte Square Hotel - and embarked on hosting our first-ever Positive Change Gala (get your tickets here!)
  • We partnered with Nathaniel Hall's Edinburgh Fringe Show, First Time, to spread our message and challenge stigma.
  • We worked with Waverley Care, Hepatitis Scotland and the Scottish Drugs Forum to demand action on Drug Policy from the UK Government. 
  • We published Disclosures, our stigma-busting book, which is available in all good bookstores across Scotland. 
  • We led Edinburgh Pride with our U=U banner, with over 30 volunteers taking part. 
  • We reached 1.2million people with our public awareness campaign in the Metro Newspaper and online, challenging stigma, myths and misconceptions. 
  • We secured funding from the National Lottery Community Fund to relaunched the Positive Person's Forum!
  • We're working with Scottish Trans Alliance, Waverley Care and many other partners on the Scottish Parliamentary Cross Party Group on Sexual Health & Blood Borne Viruses Inquiry into Sexual & Reproductive Health for Trans and Non-Binary people.

And we've done much, much more too. 

This job, and the work we do, is incredibly rewarding. It's a joy to go to work in the morning, but it's tough as well. As a new, young Chief Executive, I felt the pressure to prove myself in this leadership role. I've experienced imposter feeling, not knowing whether I even deserved to take on this job. I've had to learn - fast. But thankfully, with a strong team, Board, sponsors, supporters and colleagues across the sector - I think we've made a real success out of the last year. 

Taking over an organisation that could have shut the doors was a challenge, but as we get ready to celebrate 25 years at the forefront of Scotland's response to HIV, I know deep down that this organisation will always be around until we've made HIV history.