A community-run charity in the Grampian region has been leading the charge for better HIV awareness as we mark World AIDS Day 2017.

Four Pillars, the LGBT health and wellbeing charity based in Aberdeen, has been out and about this week at various colleges and universities offering free condoms, information, advice, support and the iconic red ribbons to students and staff. The group have also been offering testing facilities across the region.

Led by local LGBT activist, Deejay Bullock, the charity were in North East Scotland College Fraserburgh campus earlier in November kicking off National Testing Week and have since been at University of Aberdeen and Robert Gordon University sites too, all staffed by a team of dedicated volunteers.

During the past week the team have been joined by staff from NHS Grampian who’ve provided Dried Blood Spot Testing kits to 59 people, including 26 today in the Trinity Centre in only a few hours.

Charity Founder, Deejay, told us:

“It’s been great to get out on the road with the volunteers going round all these venues around the North East to raise awareness of HIV and other sexual health-related matters. There is still a big issue with stigma in the LGBT community, especially amongst gay and bi men. Despite all the awareness of testing services, lots of people still have a very negative reaction to HIV diagnosis. We’re working with partners to try and tackle that in the community, showing that the testing process is really discreet and quick and with the introduction of PrEP there are options to stay safe and still have fun. Ultimately, living with HIV is no longer the death sentence it once was years ago and we have to work hard to keep getting that message across.”

Tonight (1st Dec) the charity will be joined by Aberdeen Alcohol & Drugs Action (ADA), Police Scotland and the NHS for a special event in Cheerz bar from 6pm. The nearby Exchange Street Clinic will also be open for testing with a special clinic open late and there will be a candle-lit vigil to remember those lost to HIV/AIDS in Aberdeen.

Cheerz also becomes the home for the annual Red Party, bringing the community together to raise awareness of HIV, breaking down barriers and stigma, and offering those living with HIV hope that the community stands with them. Dance-based radio station, Gaydio, will also be taking over the decks at Cheerz club until 3am, making it a night to remember for all the right reasons.

A number of buildings across the country, including our featured picture of Aberdeen City Council’s HQ, have been lit red to mark World AIDS Day.

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