A WEARSIDE exhibition has been raising awareness to HIV and Aids.
The University of Sunderland’s week of activities will come to an end tonight with a special service at Sunderland Minster, on the eve of World Aids Day.
University chaplain the Reverend Chris Howson said: “This sort of exhibition forces people to meet people affected by HIV and Aids. You can’t avoid it – it’s in the library, the City Space. We can’t hide away from it.
“They will learn a bit more about the current situation because I think people think it’s an issue from years ago, but it’s still a current issue.”
The exhibition features inspirational images of 10 North East people who have been affected by the virus in some way.
Sunderland-based gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender organisation We’ar Out has supported the event, providing information as well as free condoms and one-hour HIV testing.
We’ar Out community development worker Kris Heskett said: “HIV is something which puts terror in people’s eyes, especially when they are coming for tests.
“We’re starting to see a rise in the number of people who are heterosexual that have become infected.
“A lot of people think it’s only a gay thing and it’s not – it can affect anyone.
“It’s about raising awareness and for people who think they are affected, to get tested early because it’s vital.
“The earlier you catch it, the more chance you’ve got of being able to manage it.”
One Sunderland man, who has had HIV for six years and didn’t want to be names, said: “It pays to catch it early. There is medication to help it along.
“I was devastated when I first found out, but I met my partner through having it so I have never been happier.”
In 2011 an estimated 96,000 people in the UK were living with HIV.
The university held an open lantern-making session yesterday ahead of tomorrow’s World Aids Day lantern parade through Newcastle.
Tonight will see the Minster hold a special service, with all welcome to attend, between 7.30pm and 8.30pm.