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Let's talk about sexually-transmitted diseases

Hundreds of people will declare their HIV status on their chests as part of a provocative campaign to get people talking about sexually-transmitted diseases. Mr James added: “I want to encourage people to have the conversation.

About 300 people, including Public Works Minister Michael Weeks and MP Dale Butler, will don the eye-catching T-shirts saying they are HIV positive or negative to help highlight the campaign.

It is hoped that the hard-hitting campaign to mark World Aids Day on Thursday will highlight that “no one knows what anyone else has”.

The red T-shirts with white lettering say: 'Hi, I'm HIV negative/positive. If only it was this easy. Practice safe sex and get tested.'

The awareness campaign is the brainchild of graphic designer Hafid James, 25, who is keen to warn people of the dangers of unprotected sex.

The campaign will also see about 50 posters being put up at bars, restaurants and other businesses across Bermuda. The poster designs are based on the layout of Facebook and BlackBerry Messenger profile screens suggesting that you never know what sexual disease someone has before you become friends with them.

Mr James has also designed a series of adhesive labels, which will be put up in the corner of mirrors in bars including Docksiders and The Swizzle. The labels read: “This is what someone looks like who can contract HIV.”

Mr James said: “No one walks around saying they have HIV or any other sexually-transmitted disease.

“You never know what people have, we may assume but we never really know.

“We don't know who has slept with who or who has what, often until it is too late.”

“It's one of those subjects that we don't like to talk about, but we all need to open up. People need to start talking about this.”

Mr James said that 300 people would “go about their normal everyday business” while wearing the specially-made T-shirts all day on Thursday.

Nearly 60 Berkeley Institute students will wear the T-shirts, as well as staff at Café4, Jamaican Grill, Secrets, and Exclusive Beauty Centre and Barber Shop. Volunteers at Mirrors, Youth Net, the Centre Against Abuse and the Coalition for the Protection of Children will also take part.

Most of the T-shirts will say 'I'm HIV negative', but there will be about 12 “bold” people wearing HIV positive T-shirts, including Mr James.

The Royal Gazette reported last month that Government was refusing to support Mr James' safe sex campaign because of Budget cuts.

It came after Health Minister Zane DeSilva highlighted the “worrying” and “disturbing trend” of people's sex lives in a Government and Bermuda Health Council survey. It found those with more than one sexual partner in the past year had leaped 17 points from six percent to 23 percent in five years and HIV testing had declined with 44 percent having been tested compared to 49 percent in 2006.

However the story resulted in Mr James receiving generous donations of $1,000 from both the Coalition for the Protection of Children and the Wharton family.

Mr James said he didn't want to label anyone with HIV but instead encourage people to get tested as the disease “is spread across class, colour, age and gender”.

He said: “This is what I've wanted to do for so long, I think it's important to promote safe sex. These diseases are preventable, but people continue with their risky sexual behaviour.

“I'm not saying this campaign is the answer to the problem, it's not going to solve everything, but it's the first step.

“It will hopefully start a chain reaction and start to change people's mindsets”.

He added: “It's great that I have received so much support, I'm very grateful.

“It's been a lot of work, but I've had complete strangers coming up to me and giving me words of encouragement”.

Mr James was also responsible for last month's poster campaign and mannequin window display for Domestic Abuse Awareness Month.

He returned to Bermuda last year after graduating from Humber College in Toronto with plans to “make a difference where it's needed”.

Mr James would like to thank his sponsors, all those participating in the campaign and

The Royal Gazette.

Sending a message: Wearing T-shirts as part of a campaign to highlight the issues of sexually transmitted diseases, from the left: Hafid James, Deesa Booth, Kara Simmons MP Dale Butler and Shae James.

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Published November 29, 2011 at 9:00 am (Updated November 29, 2011 at 9:02 am)

Let's talk about sexually-transmitted diseases

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