First HIV Radio Show Set To Launch In Britain To 'Challenge Stigma'

It's estimated that more than 100,000 people are living with HIV in the UK, yet we still shy away from talking about it.

But that could be set to change thanks to a new radio show about HIV, which is determined to end any stigma surrounding the disease.

The show, titled HIV Happy Hour, will run weekly on Radio Reverb, a Brighton-based local station, from 1 October.

The magazine-style programme is the brainchild of author and HIV activist Paul Thorn, who was diagnosed with the disease in 1990.

"The main aim of the show is to challenge some of the negative thinking that many people living with HIV hold about themselves," Thorn tells HuffPost UK Lifestyle.

"There is no reason why anyone living with HIV should be ashamed or feel bad about having the virus. I want this show to be one of the tools to help change that."

Paul Thorn

Thorn describes the show as "a programme by and for people with HIV".

The light-hearted name HIV Happy Hour aims to show that living with HIV doesn't have to be all doom and gloom - people can be happy living with the disease. The name of the show also echoes the title of Thorn's book, HIV Happy.

The 60-minute programme will be a lifestyle-based show covering a wide range of topics.

"It will be cover health, wealth, happiness, relationships, and lots of tips from experts for getting on with and making the most of the second chance at life afforded to people living with the virus by treatment," Thorn explains.

"There will be some more serious subjects covered also, for example hepatitis co-infection, tuberculosis, and hopefully some surprise celebrity guests also.

"More important is that the show is a platform for people living with the virus, they will be playing a major role in output and direction of the show."

A pilot episode of HIV Happy Hour included an interview with the head of a care facility for people with HIV and tips for HIV-positive listeners to set up their own business.

Thorn hopes this wide range of topics will help normalise HIV, so people living with the disease feel more able to speak about their experiences and seek the help they need.

The 45-year-old first took a test for HIV in 1988. Being just 19 years old at the time, it took him 18 months to go and get the results because he was afraid.

Unfortunately, things didn't get any easier in the years following his diagnosis.

"I lived for many years feeling ashamed because I have HIV. It has prevented me from going for jobs that I wanted and seeking relationships with people who I found attractive because I thought they wouldn't would want me," he says.

"That kind of feeling can exist in the very core of you to the point that you can't stand the sight of yourself in the mirror. It has taken me many years to realise that I am worth something and to start caring about myself, maybe even love myself a little.

"There are a lot of unpleasant people out there and when you already feel bad about yourself it doesn't take much to be tipped over the edge by someone stigmatising or abusing you. Many times I have found the attitudes of others very damaging.

"Thankfully, I know how to handle it now. It's a mind-set and self-belief."

HIV Happy Hour will air on Radio Reverb (97.2FM) every Thursday at 7pm from 1 October.

No Shame About Being HIV +