Poz Vibe: Hosts tackle HIV with humour and empathy – Independent.ie

Poz Vibe: Hosts tackle HIV with humour and empathy – Independent.ie

“Why should we have to be ­resilient? F*** society. Do more to make it easier on us!” Poz Vibe Podcast co-host Robbie Lawlor is laying out the truth about living with HIV in his distinctly outrageous but nail-on-the-head way. Every Friday, Lawlor and the ever-wonderful Dublin drag queen Veda Lady create a warm, safe and inviting space for guests to share their stories about life since their diagnosis. M aking sure that every colour of the LGBTQ+ flag is waved, the Irish podcast doesn’t limit queerness to one perspective, nor does it sugarcoat its guests’ experiences. The hardship exists — and it cannot be watered down in any way — but by hearing so many stories and anecdotes from a wide range of people from vastly different backgrounds, the loneliness that once enshrouded a positive status is lessening. By taking control of the narrative, Lawlor and Veda, who are both HIV positive, make sure that these discussions aren’t surface level, which can often happen in mainstream media. Combining activism with humour and empathy, they champion people coming to grips with their own status, take digs at the Government for not doing more to improve health services and, week by week, they break down the stigma surrounding the virus. With the popularity of Channel 4’s It’s a Sin and the Irish theatre production Once Before I Go at the Gate Theatre last September, pop culture coverage of the Aids crisis can often dwell on the past, but Poz Vibe focuses firmly on the now. Educating the unfamiliar and reminding the already informed, they regularly state that with effective treatment, HIV is undetectable and untransmittable (U=U). Diagnosis is no longer a death sentence and life — thankfully — goes on. “Life happens and as much as we need to talk about HIV, we need to talk about mental health in HIV,” says Belfast drag queen Cherrie Ontop (aka Matthew Cavan), who was told in 2009 that they had HIV. Cherrie, who was brought up in a religious household, is surrounded by a supportive family but emphasises that “it’s not living with this virus” that’s a struggle, “it’s living with my head and other people’s words”. Providing a blueprint in emotional management, Lawlor, Veda and guests reach out to listeners in a way that a pamphlet found in a hospital reception cannot and they remove the fairytale element that can be found in films, plays and TV shows about HIV. The most recent series was sponsored by Dublin Pride and it features a former RTÉ news anchor and gay icon as the continuity announcer. “Hello, I’m Anne Doyle and here is the news,” she says, striking the balance between perfectly camp and seriously informative. “A HIV person who is on effective treatment cannot pass it on. Pass it on…” Launched last May, just as Pride festivities were kicking off in a relatively lockdown-free Ireland, Poz Vibe has fast become essential listening. With a steady stream of jokes, science, bravery and, yes, resilience, Lawlor and Veda are welcoming people into their community with open arms while picking up the slack from a failed sex education system.
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