Published on 04 June 2019
Our University was the first to volunteer and sign up to the Positive Allies Charter Mark, designed to demonstrate that an organisation is friendly towards, and inclusive of, people living with HIV and that they are actively challenging HIV stigma.
Positive Allies is the first of its kind in the world, and the concept behind the charter was based on the results of a research project undertaken by academic Drew Daltonin 2015 called ‘Silent Scream?’. Drew’s study highlighted what life is like in the UK for people living with HIV and the barriers they faced. It found that those with HIV were still facing stigma within their working environments despite the introduction of the workplace Equality Act (2010).
Since its launch in April 2018, Positive Allies has signed up a variety of organisations from schools, universities and business parks, to not-for-profit organisations and small businesses, ensuring people living with HIV, as either staff or volunteers, are safe and that key staff undertake training, review policies and consider practices and resources, which demonstrate equality and openness about HIV.
Drew, Senior Lecturer in Sociology at the University of Sunderland, says: “We have been delighted with the response across the UK since launching Positive Allies. Our University was the first to apply and has really set the standard, but more work needs to be done.
“While the Equalities Act (2010) added further protections to those living with HIV, many employers are still unaware that HIV is included within this legislation. So not only is there a moral case for organisations to achieve Positive Allies but it is also signalling to others their commitments to equality and diversity legislation.
“By everyone signing up, we can ensure that workplaces become better places for people living with HIV and to tackle some of the stigma that people continue to face today.”
One of those organisations to fully embrace the new charter isRisedale Sports & Community CollegeinCatterick, North Yorkshire.
Principal Colin Scott said: “We are determined to ensure that all of its workforce and pupils are treated with the same dignity as each other regardless of gender, orientation, faith, culture, background or disability and to do so in such a way as to remove all stigma through prejudice to any and all people. The school does not just ensure it meets its obligations through the Equality Act but goes beyond that. This has been our mission for the last few years and it will continue with its inclusive ethos in the years to come.
“Positive Allies is one way in which the school actively demonstrates its support for all and we are proud to have achieved this award as a check that we are indeed doing all we can for the community.”
The Charter Mark provides a free online training course for key staff and volunteers and an HIV Staff/volunteer policy for organisations to tailor around their current policies.
“The charter allows employers to advertise to others that they are making a conscious effort to improve the culture of their organisation, and more importantly to reduce stigma,” Drew added.
Positive Allies is maintained by the University of Sunderland and an adjudicating panel, to award the Charter Mark, is made up of a range of industry experts and of people living with HIV. Once gained, organisations can use the Positive Allies logo on their websites, letterheads and social media channels.
Justine Gillespie, Human Resources manager at the University of Sunderland, said “We were delighted to support Drew with his project and used it as an opportunity to become an HIV friendly employer. With his advice we developed our HIV/AIDS staff policy, which we launched last year, and also invited Drew to carry out a number of training sessions for staff and students. The feedback we have received has been overwhelmingly positive and so would encourage any employer to sign up to the principles of the Charter Mark.”
The Positive Allies Charter Mark was officially launched at Canary Wharf in April 2018 at the University of Sunderland in London campus. The keynote speech was given by Roland Chesters – a recognised disability and inclusion expert; coach, consultant, workshop leader and motivational speaker. Roland is about to publish a book: ‘Ripples from the Edge of Life’, which documents the stories of 14 people with HIV and AIDS and the impact on their lives.
To find out more about the Positive Allies Charter Mark, and how to sign up, go to:
Academic Drew Dalton’s research projectin 2015, ‘Silent Scream?’, highlighted what life is like in the UK for people living with HIV and the barriers they faced, revealing worrying trends:
- the U.K. Stigma Survey (2015) found that a significant proportion of respondents felt stigmatised and had experienced HIV-related discrimination at work;
- this had a substantial effect on wellbeing; with around half reporting feelings of shame, guilt or self-blame in relation to their HIV status in the last year, while one in five reported having felt suicidal;
- despite being a named condition in the Equality Act (2010), a fifth of respondents who had disclosed their HIV positive status at work had experienced discrimination in their current or previous job;
- 12% of participants had decided not to apply for, or turned down, employment or a promotion due to their status;
- 41 people in the study reported losing their job or another source of income due to their HIV status in the last twelve months, and one in nine reported being denied insurance products (for example, job protection) in the last year, which is illegal.
- over half (52%) of working respondents reported they had told no one in their workplace about their HIV status (Stigma Survey, 2015).