The evening was set up by the George House Trust.
The Manchester based charity, set up in 1985, has been inspiring people living with HIV to live healthy, confident lives by providing HIV support, advice and advocacy services.
There were three speakers on the night, starting with the wonderful Cheddar Gorgeous, Star of Drag Race UK who spoke passionately about the George House Trust and realities of living with HIV today.
Paul Fairweather, one of the founders of George House Trust also spoke of his experiences, and Doctor Monica Pearl who talked very movingly about AIDS activism in New York in the 1980s.
Cheddar was applauded for opening up a powerful conversation on Drag Race UK surrounding HIV, when she created a bodysuit embellished with pink triangles.
They educated attendees about the realities of HIV today, including that someone living with HIV and on effective treatment can’t pass it on.
The bodysuit, which is now on display at the hotel, features an upward-pointing triangle – which is a symbol used by the activist group ACT UP during the AIDs crisis – an organisation fighting to end the AIDs epidemic and the outfit also includes the group’s slogan “Silence = death”.
The pink triangle was reclaimed from the Holocaust when Nazis used a downward-pointing triangle to demarcate gay men in concentration camps.
Cheddar has used their platform and BBC Three’s Drag Race UK to raise awareness of the virus with a younger audience and the need to challenge stigma and dispel any shame associated with HIV in the UK today, where almost 100,000 people live diagnosed with HIV.
For Cheddar, whilst representation on platforms like Drag Race is important, it’s imperative to ensure that these moments of recognition are translated into calls for action.
The real activism is done day-in-day out by organisations working to support people living with HIV, Cheddar works tirelessly to support George House Trust in raising awareness of the charity in supporting people who live with HIV to live healthy and confident lives.
Kimpton Clocktower Hotel will now exhibit Cheddar Gorgeous’ powerful ‘Pink Triangle’ outfit throughout LGBTQIA+ history month in February. The runway look will be displayed in The Refuge to raise awareness in the fight against HIV and initiate positive change in breaking down the stigma that remains in society today.
We spoke to Paul Fairweather, who was one of the five men who set up Manchester AIDS line that eventually became George House Trust.
He said: “It’s really important people are aware of the messages around HIV. particularly for me, as someone living with HIV that U=U. Undetectable means untransmissable – if you’re on medication you cannot pass the virus on.
“I have an undetectable viral load, which means In terms of catching HIV I am the safest person you could meet.
“It’s really important people are aware of their HIV status, it’s easier than ever to get tested. It’s all about challenging the stigma and discrimination that people living with HIV still face.
“It’s amazing to have Cheddar here and a range of people talking about the history of HIV and HIV activism.
“2025 will be 40th anniversary, I was one of the people who set up the Manchester AIDS line which is now George House Trust. In the early days there was a huge amount of ignorance, fear and discrimination against people living with HIV.
“Since then there have been massive changes with really efficient treatments and U=U.
“There’s much more awareness now. We’re doing a lot of work in schools to help children learn about HIV, how you can catch it and how you can’t.
“There’s plenty more to be done!”
Established in 1985 by six gay men, George House Trust have been at the forefront of the HIV response in Greater Manchester for the last 38 years.
While there have been tremendous progress and huge changes in the life expectancy, life experiences and life expectations of people living with HIV in that time, their work continues because of the health inequalities, stigma, and discrimination that people living with HIV continue to face today.
Advancements in HIV treatment means that increasing numbers of people are growing older with HIV.
George House Trust’s Age+ project empowers people over the age of 55 who are living with HIV to live confidently into older age by delivering a range of events and activities, to learn new skills, discover new interests and connect with other people living with HIV.
Darren Knight, Chief Executive at George House Trust, said: “Cheddar is an amazing ambassador, supporter, and friend of George House Trust.
“Cheddar understands how HIV has changed and how the stigma still exists, which was articulated during their appearance on Drag Race by shining a spotlight on HIV activism and the Act Up movement with that iconic pink triangle runway look.’
“The way Cheddar uses their platform to educate people about HIV and Undetectable Equals Untransmissible is extraordinary and exactly what we love. We’re so grateful to Cheddar for exhibiting this piece of Drag Race and HIV history to showcase HIV activism, past and present, to Manchester’s