Designer fighting stigma: ‘When I came out as HIV+, my flatmate refused to share a fridge’

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

A London fashion student has launched a new app aiming to reduce the stigma surrounding HIV and help those newly diagnosed with the virus.

The Positive Project app was conceived after creator Jacob Alexander found out he had HIV on the morning of his 22nd birthday.

Alexander, who has just graduated from the London College of Fashion, hopes the app will be a source of information, as well as fostering a greater sense of community among those who are HIV-positive.

He has talked frankly about some of the challenges he has faced since hearing he had contracted the virus.

He said: “While there is a negative stigma, I never thought I would be on the receiving end.

“But one day I came home to find my flatmate and my old best friend had bought their own fridge to ‘prevent’ transmission”.

There is no risk of contracting HIV through living with or sharing food with someone who is positive.

Alexander says his frustration at people’s ignorance helped drive him to do something: “More and more people who I told would respond with what seemed to me idiotic questions.

“The general public just isn’t educated enough. HIV needs to make the headlines again”, he said.

Alexander asked himself how best he could reach out to a young audience and was inspired by the ‘ice bucket challenge’.

Recognising the power of social media to raise awareness around a particular issue, the app features a ‘selfie map’ where users are encouraged to post pictures of themselves promoting the project. The ambition is that posts will eventually be shared from every major city around the world.

Users can also buy merchandise designed by Alexander, who exhibited his debut menswear collection last night at the London College of Fashion Menswear Takeover.

All proceeds from sales of merchandise will go towards HIV research and to provide better care for HIV patients.

You can download The Positive Project app here.