Person Of The Week: Robert Fieldhouse
AIDS is a difficult subject to broach, as campaigner and HIV patient Robert Fieldhouse knows only too well. For many people it is a disease that still holds a certain stigma and is still seen as someone else's problem.
During the height of the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s, Robert watched a BBC documentary that convinced him that he had to help in any way he could.
He has been working since 1997 to raise awareness of AIDS, hosting community workshops and even publishing his own free magazine, BASELINE. It is distributed to 170 clinics, 80 HIV charities and 300 gay bars and saunas in the hope of giving direct, honest information relating to all things HIV and AIDS.
He educated himself about AIDS after leaving university and has been spreading his knowledge ever since, telling sufferers how to take their medication and give them personal advice.
As he told the Huffington Post UK "it's nice for people to hear things from a non-medical source. It gives them reassurance, if you de-jargonise what is happening to them".
He takes a deliberately non-hysterical approach, talking to people living with HIV about how their lifestyles need to change. But even since he started in the nineties, there has been a radical improvement in the treatment. Now people with HIV can manage the virus with one pill once a day, something Robert never imagined when he started.
There is still a remarkable level of ignorance for school leavers, Robert laments. Despite sex education lessons, AIDS is only briefly tackled and he find it 'criminal' that "people still aren't aware of the myriad of sexual diseases and risks".
So what is the most pressing issue facing HIV/AIDS campaigners today? Alarmingly it is the large number of undiagnosed cases, as Robert has blogged about for the Huffington Post UK. 24% of people with HIV do not even know they have it. When people start being treated, they are unlikely to pass the virus on, so the longer these people are not being treated, the higher the risk of them passing it on. For Robert, this is next big challenge.
His personal hero in the fight against AIDS is Stephen Lewis, who runs Aids Free World and is a former UN envoy on AIDS. To Robert he epitomises everything a campaigner should be:
"He's charming, charismatic and angry. He's my hero. He's willing to put his head above the parapet".