“How do you make good stories about HIV?”

Dr Katharine Low, Matilda Mudvayanhu and Dr Shema Tariq

Challenging the dominant narrative about women living with HIV.

The number of women with HIV (WLWH) in the UK aged 45-56 (potentially menopausal age) has increased from around 400 in 2000, to over 7500 in 2013.  Despite increasing numbers of women living with HIV entering mid-life, little is known about how WLWH experience the menopause, and how it affects their wellbeing. Furthermore, since the advent of the HIV epidemic there have been relatively few cultural representations of women living with HIV.

This pilot project is a collaboration between Dr Katharine Low (Lecturer in Community Performance and Applied Theatre, the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama), Dr Shema Tariq (Clinical Academic, UCL), the London-based HIV charity Positively UK (PosUK), and Matilda Mudvayanhu, freelance theatre practitioner and HIV Youth Consultant. It has been developed in close dialogue with WLWH and informed by feedback from an initial ‘taster’ workshop at PosUK in September 2015. The pilot project has been funded through the Public and Cultural Engagement department at UCL under the Public Engagement Unit’s Beacon Bursary scheme. The team's intention is to develop a performance project that will bring together theatre practitioners, clinical HIV researchers, and women living with HIV, to address the lack of ‘stories’ about older women living with HIV and to stimulate debate about reproductive ageing in HIV. 

The project's first event will be a sharing on International Women’s Day on 3rd March responding to the theme: Women living with HIV: Our Needs, Our Care, Our Ambitions. Because of the sensitivity surrounding the event, this is by invitation only.

Project Partners

  • Positively UK (PosUK) provides peer-led support, advocacy and information to people living with HIV to manage any aspect of their diagnosis, care and life with HIV
  • The PRIME Study  (Positive tRansItions through the Menopause) is a three year NIHR-funded quantitative and qualitative study that will explore, for the first time in the UK, the impact of the menopause on HIV-positive women’s health and wellbeing in 15 HIV clinics across England (Chief Investigator, Dr Shema Tariq): @Prime_UCL @savoy__truffle
  • Dr Katharine Low: @katlow17
  • Matilda Mudyavanhu: @xxMatildaxx

The PRIME Study