The University of Birmingham branch of Saving Lives UK is a medical student led group set up back in 2018. Our goal is to work alongside the national Saving Lives charity to spread awareness, increase testing, and reduce stigma of HIV, hepatitis, and other sexually transmitted infections. This work includes raising awareness amongst both the general public and our fellow students. We have grown rapidly since our launch and are constantly thinking of new ways to work alongside the national charity to achieve our goals.
In our 2019-2020 year we managed to engage more people than ever in conversations about HIV and sexual health thanks to an enthusiastic group of medical student volunteers. Across two nights during National HIV Testing Week, over 50 volunteers took to the streets, pubs, and bars of Birmingham. Our aim was to start conversations, raise awareness, and provide people with the tools and information to protect themselves against HIV. In addition to this, volunteers spent an afternoon raising awareness of HIV and HIV testing on the University of Birmingham campus. Our brilliant volunteers did such an amazing job and started so many important conversations throughout the week.
In addition to raising public HIV awareness, we also organise events to improve knowledge of HIV amongst medical students. For World AIDS Day 2019 we organised an AIDS mini conference at our medical school. This included talks from Dr Steve Taylor, Medical Director of Saving Lives UK, Birmingham Sexpression, and the University of Birmingham Immunology and Microbiology society. We were delighted so many future doctors attended to improve their knowledge of HIV.
In the past year we have also began to fundraise for the national Saving Lives charity. In February we held our first Saving Lives pub quiz. At this event, we helped raise awareness through questions about sexual health and HIV. We also gave out pamphlets providing information about these topics, along with free condoms. In this one evening, we managed to raise over £200 for the charity.
2020-2021 presents new challenges to our society, with the restrictions in place due to COVID-19. Luckily, we have an innovative committee ready to face up to the task. We are planning a much greater social media presence in the coming year and we will be creating and sharing plenty of engaging and informative content. We will move our educational events to an online format, so we can continue to provide medical students with opportunities to learn more about HIV. We are considering new ways to spread HIV awareness, such as online film/TV screenings of content that addresses themes such as HIV and sexual health. Finally, we will continue our fundraising efforts for the national charity and are planning for a raffle in the coming months. We are determined to engage more people than ever and continue to reach our goals in the upcoming year.
Angus Grant, Dengyi Zhou and Abigail Embaie
On Behalf of Saving Lives UOB