I have previously asked ‘Are you PR ready?’ in a video. Part of this involves being prepared to share your story and put yourself out there.
I have had the pleasure of working with Roland Chesters, a disability development consultant with Luminate.
He was given just two weeks to live, in 2006, following a late diagnosis of HIV. He has overcome post-traumatic stress disorder, chronic ill health and discrimination to bring greater disability rights to the workplace and tackle the stigma surrounding HIV and AIDS.
He has gone on to share his experience to raise awareness and help other people in similar circumstances. He has done this through talks, such as visits to schools and businesses, in his book, Ripples: From the Edge of Life, and, more recently, in the press.
National award nomination
He was recently among just 124 people nominated for the prestigious National Diversity Awards, which has recognised a host of activists and campaigners for their work.
Roland has worked with a range of people, including a man who was beaten up and sexually assaulted by his own family when he shared his status with them. He has also supported a mum-of-two who was excluded and attacked by members of her own community.
Speaking out to tackle stigma
He continues to work and campaign for disability rights and an end to stigma surrounding HIV-AIDS.
He said: “I will not live in fear. I want to stand up for other people who may be more vulnerable or with less of a support network.
“Until there are enough people living with the condition saying ‘this is who I am and I cannot pass on the infection’ the stigma will not go away.”
His willingness to share his story, with a clear mission, has led to widespread press coverage.
He has also worked with his colleague, Sue Mason, at Positive Voices (a project run by the Terrence Higgins Trust charity) to speak out and tackle the stigma of living with HIV.
Their work has been covered in, to name a few:
- The Business Leader
- The Surrey Comet
- Lancashire Live
- Lancashire Telegraph
- Entirely News
- Wellbeing News
- Royal Holloway University News
- The Argus
Roland has kindly written a testimonial to explain how our work together has been beneficial to him.
However, I believe it is his willingness to speak out which made it all possible. I personally find him inspiring.