Monday, December 9, 2013

Emmanuel Labour

What did you do this weekend? I pulled a fit bird, got hammered on Bacardi and coke, and had three fry-ups the next day. Beat that.
I packed some HIV test postal kits for Terrence Higgins Trust.

Eh? Sounds duller than a Lib Dem conference speech. What did you waste time doing that for?
Well, my dad's cousin died of AIDS, so I'm quite keen to see HIV stopped once and for all.

And you think stuffing some envelopes is going to stop an epidemic, do you?
If enough people do the tests, it could certainly help. You see, when people are diagnosed, they can start treatment - which not only only gives them a better prognosis, it also means they're less likely to pass on the virus.

What, because they'll be more "responsible"?
Yes, and because HIV meds can decrease the virus to undetectable levels, meaning that they're less likely to be able to infect others.

How do these "kits" work, then?
They allow the user to take a blood sample using a lancet. The sample is then sent straight to a laboratory at a hospital, where it's analysed for the p24 antigen protein, which is present in HIV+ users with a window period of four weeks. If the result is negative, users will be told via text; if it's positive, they'll be telephoned by a counsellor experienced in giving positive results.

Chuck us a test kit then. I never use condoms.
That's ridiculously silly of you, but you don't qualify. Due to THT's funding, the tests are currently only available to African people and MSM (men who have sex with men).

I know you're liberal, write for the Guardian and like to support minorities, but that's preposterous!
It's not, it makes total sense. Those are the two highest-risk groups for HIV infection. It's a shitty, horrible disease that affects minority groups disproportionately. That's one of the reasons why I want to do everything I can to help stop it.

So what can I do then? I'm not wasting my weekends volunteering, that's for sure.
You could buy the book I edited, The Atheist's Guide to Christmas (HarperCollins), as all editor and contributor royalties go to THT. You could also encourage any of your friends in high-risk groups to test regularly. You could sign up for a different volunteering role by emailing And you can start wearing condoms.

Yes Mum. Who's that bloke with you in the picture?
It's Nick Dastoor, the Guardian journalist in the Give Blood chapter of Give: How to Be Happy. And the photo was taken by the project coordinator, a lovely guy called Emmanuel.

So when you were packing the kits, was that 'Emmanuel labour'?

To volunteer to help pack HIV test postal kits at THT's King's Cross office, please email