The World AIDS Day RED RUN is back!
Now more important than ever, the World AIDS Day RED RUN returns to Victoria Park, London. A 10k/5k charity fun run or 5k walk in support of HIV services across the UK.
Since 2009, East London’s HIV charity – Positive East – has organised the World AIDS Day RED RUN on the last weekend of November (just before World AIDS Day on 1st Dec). What began 12 years ago with just 50 people running a 10k run through Richmond Park, is now a large community event shared and enjoyed by thousands.
Past special guests have included Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, Sir Ian McKellen and Dame Barbara Windsor. In addition, the event has played host to spoken word performances, AIDS quilt displays, drag singers and international DJs. The growth and success of the event so far is only down to the incredible support of those who have taken part. We want people of all ages, abilities and backgrounds to join together and make a positive impact in their community.
Generally, we expect over 4,000 people to come together to raise over £150,000 for vital HIV support and prevention services across the UK.
MORE THAN A RUN!
The World AIDS Day RED RUN is a celebration, an acknowledgement of work still to be done and an opportunity for each of us to remember those whose fight against HIV ended too soon. Anchoring the route itself is the RED RUN Village, where we can all gather before and after the event.The RED RUN village will include: DJs from Eagle London/Horse Meat Disco, free hot drinks, UK AIDS Memorial Quilt display, charity tables, a small display of HIV and AIDS public health poster campaigns from Wellcome Collection and an unsung community heroes exhibitions. The event will be hosted by Tom Rasmussen, Miss Ruby V, House of Dynasty and Shirley du Naughty.
Who benefits from the event?
As there are no other large scale HIV community fundraising event in the UK, Positive East invites the HIV sector to benefit from Red RUN. This year, 25 HIV charities have joined in the event, allowing each to raise vital funds which will strengthen our collective response to HIV. These include: 4M Network, Africa Equality Foundation, CHIVA, Food Chain, LGBT HERO, Living Well, Metro, Mildmay, Mothers2Mothers, NAM, National HIV Story Trust, NAT, Plushealth, Positive Health, PositivelyUK, Prepster, Sophia Forum, Spectra, StopAIDS, Switchboard LGBT+ Helpline, TackleAfrica, Terrence Higgins Trust, Wandsworth Oasis, Fast Track Cities, and ELOP.
We’re Not Done Yet
It has now been just over 40 years since the first recorded cases of HIV/AIDS were confirmed and this year’s RED RUN takes place against the backdrop of a momentous time in the world of HIV. We have seen a dramatic fall in new HIV diagnosis, particularly amongst gay men in London, London and the UK have exceeded the UNAIDS 90-90-90 target (90% of those living with HIV are diagnosed, 90% of those diagnosed are on treatment, and 90% of those on treatment are adhering), PrEP works, and if you have an undetectable HIV viral load it is biologically impossible to pass the virus on to your sexual partners.
However, amongst this good news, the challenge remains that not everyone and not all communities are benefiting. HIV stigma is still a reality and there are far too many people undiagnosed or diagnosed late. 50,000 Londoners are living with HIV and HIV support services are still needed. We have mourned the loss of tens of millions of people whose fight against HIV ended too soon. We’re not done yet.
Now is certainly not the time for us to stand down. Take Action. Lace Up. We’re not done yet.
YASS Magazine got in touch with Ian Montgomery, Head of Fundraising and Communications and Hugh Wyld, Fundraising Officer and HIV Voices Director of Positive East.
How did you come up with the idea of RED RUN?
IM (Ian Montgomery) – Positive East launched the World AIDS Day Red Run in 2009. At first, it was a smaller event that was just in support of Positive East with around 50 people running a 5k and raising a few thousand pounds. In 2016 we began to build the event to create something that had a wider benefit. We felt strongly that as we were already organising the event, it would only be a good thing to invite other HIV charities to participate as we know that the success of the HIV sector is only possible if it’s a collective one.
HW (Hugh Wyld) – And since then it has grown into the event we have today – thousands coming together in support of both large and small HIV charities from across the UK. With this growth and attendance we try to more meaningfully mark World AIDS Day through the various activities you see on the day.
As you say, The World AIDS Day Red Run is more than a run. It is a celebration and an acknowledgement of work still to be done. How did you manage to make Red Run one of the most important and popular queer events in London?
IM – Positive East works tirelessly to make the event meaningful. I think the success of the World AIDS Day Red Run comes from the idea that it’s more than a run. This is a core principle of the event, and guides us through all stages of the planning – even though ‘run’ is in the moniker. To us the run/walk aspect is almost secondary and the primary focus is more about bringing together thousands from all walks of life to mark a day and cause that we must always acknowledge when telling the story of queer history (and present).
HW – I think it’s also worth mentioning that 100% of the event is organised and planned in house (we don’t outsource anything or bring in 3rd party event planners). This keeps its focus purely on the HIV sector. Everything from the labelling of the bag check bags, organising the red run materials, stuffing the goody bags, setting up, and delivering the event on the day is done by Positive East and 120 incredible volunteers.
IM – On that note, I just want to say a few thank you’s to Liz Lesley, Anne McLellan and Miranda Markham who have been really supportive, helping us to grow the event into what we have today.
In what ways does the Red Run give back to society?
HW – The World AIDS Day Red Run raises a huge amount every year for the HIV sector. Since the event started it has raised over £650,000 for HIV support and prevention projects. It is also one of the most important dates in the calendar for those who work in HIV support and prevention, a one off day that unites the entire sector to take action and lace up. It also is a great opportunity for each individual charity to celebrate the work they do and to engage the public in their work, and to build momentum in the sector.
IM – We know that for us to achieve zero by 2030, tackle HIV stigma and ensure that PrEP is available to all (to name a few targets/ambitions), it takes a concerted effort and is only possible when we all work together. We hope that the Red Run adds to this ambition, uniting us in a common goal, and galvanising the sector and community to continue their important work.
Past special guests have included Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, Sir Ian McKellen and Dame Barbara Windsor. What is the secret behind the success of this event?
IM – I think part of the success is that it doesn’t just benefit Positive East, or one charity, but rather the HIV sector more widely. A day where we can stand shoulder to shoulder as a unified community in the spirit of social action and awareness raising. It’s very powerful to see thousands come together all for the same cause – in celebration and in honour of our friends and loved ones. It is brilliant that the past special guests all view the event as a day of unity and we are proud that we have created an event that they want to get involved with.
HW – To add to that, I think the secret behind the success of the event lies in the dedication and willingness for all involved to commit to making the event such a success. We all know of the importance an event like this has and every year we want to build on the previous year’s success, smash our targets, and raise more money than ever before. A big shout out goes to those participants who open up Just Giving pages and make their donation go even further by encouraging their friends and loved ones to support them and donate. It takes a village to make the Red Run such a success, and that includes everyone who participates – whether they are walking, running or sashaying around the track.
What shall we expect this year?
IM – Well, after Storm Arwin foiled our plans last year, and we had to pull all the infrastructure 12 hours before people were due to arrive, we expect to bring back everything that has come to define the World AIDS Day Red Run.
The Red Run Village will be back to help ground the event, and create a larger scale platform to mark and celebrate World AIDS Day.
Within the Village, it will be our honour to display a panel from the UK AIDS Memorial Quilt. The Quilt is rarely seen in public, and the Red Run provides a not to be missed opportunity to view part of this irreplaceable piece of social history. We’ll also install a small exhibition from the Wellcome Collection of HIV/AIDS public health campaign posters, provide free coffee, create a space for HIV charity tables and, importantly, create an exhibition of our unsung HIV Community Heroes.
Of course, it would not be the Red Run without the amazing Mark Oakley and the Eagle/Horse Meat Disco team providing DJs (this year will be DJ Conor Lynch) who have been involved since 2016! Tom Rasmussen and Shirley du Naughty will return as the event’s hosts (as the event would also not be the same without them) and new to this year, House of Dynasty and Miss Ruby V will also help to host and oversee the festivities.
HW – Ian touched on the idea of The Red Run community Heroes Project, and this is something new to the event. This allows us to celebrate those people who have been working hard behind the scenes but are not as celebrated as they deserve to be. Each charity has been invited to nominate their hero and through this we’ll create a booklet and mini exhibition. Reading all their stories as participants make their way around the track is incredibly moving.
Who are the people behind RED RUN? Can you tell us a bit about your story?
HW – As a queer man I have always been connected to the cause and feel a responsibility to keep educating myself, to support people living with HIV and those at risk and to continue to work on breaking down stigma. My background is in the creative arts, mainly as a theatre director and writer, and my work is always socially conscious and touches on aspects of queerness and HIV. I set up a creative writing and performance project – HIV Voices – to create a platform to bring to light on stage stories about HIV, and to use personal storytelling to break down barriers.
IM – Similar to what Hugh said, as a queer man I too have a deep connection with the cause, andI’ve been involved with the HIV sector in various ways for around 35 years. Around 1987, I became active after a friend of the family had died of AIDS related PCP. This was difficult, and compounding my grief, I was witnessing a relentless political, social and medical assault on the community that I was desperate to identify with. This had a profound effect on me, and I’m grateful to my mom who taught me to do what you can to tackle the injustices you see. In the mid 90s I got more involved with the Sacramento (CA) AIDS Foundation through their hand-to-hand project and volunteered at their annual AIDS Walk (of which inspires some aspects of the Red Run). I now feel very fortunate to be working with Positive East, securing the resources they need to deliver their incredible services and outreach.
How did everything start and how did you decide to get involved with Positive East?
IM – I joined Positive East in early 2016. I just happened to come across the Job Advert, and immediately applied. I was thrilled to join full time. Since moving to London in 2008, I had always been impressed with Positive East and their approach – it’s very much a one stop shop, and their programmes and projects range from one to one counselling to group support, benefit advice, peer mentoring and HIV testing/outreach.
HW – I first got involved in the work of Positive East and the Red Run through my performance and writing project HIV Voices, which I began in 2014. When I moved to East London and started HIV Voices I knew I needed to work closely with a local HIV charity, to use the project to raise funds for people living with HIV, and I found Positive East through my research. Since then we have worked together on a number of projects – including a spoken word project with service users called ‘Talking Together’, and this year’s ‘Speaking Into The Spotlight’ – a 12 week performance and writing workshop for people living with HIV. I have also worked as a full time staff member at the charity since the lockdown within the fundraising team, and that’s when I took on helping support Ian with the Red Run.
What are the most pivotal moments you have experienced so far with the RED RUN?
IM – I think a real turning point for me would be when we decided to grow the event from one that just supported Positive East, to one that the whole sector could get behind. This happened between the 2016 and 2017 events and grew from 600 in attendance in 2016, to over 2000 in 2017. Another would be when we created a Pop Up AIDS Memorial in 2018 and people were able to write down why they were walking or running. We still read the messages often, and it helps us keep focus as we plan the event.
HW – Last year was quite pivotal, when we were able to announce that the event had raised a record breaking £165,000 for 29 HIV charities. Meeting Sir Ian McKellan, Dame Barbara Windsor and Sadiq Khan have been real highlights as well!
What makes what you do so special to you? Why the red run is special to you personally.
IM – Seeing everyone there in support, memory or in celebration of the community is incredibly special for me. I’m also there for my own reasons. I’m not just planning an event, but creating something that I hope Clifford, Peter, Tony, Ken, David (and all those we’ve lost to HIV and all those thriving with HIV today) would be proud and excited to see. That their life matters, and that every year on the weekend before World AIDS Day, thousands come together to celebrate them, their life and love.
HW – For me the Red Run is so special because it’s one of the only times in the year when the sector comes together as a collective whole to stand proud, acknowledge the achievements made over the past year/years, and to honour those lives lost. It’s also a time when we can look ahead to a future of zero transmissions, and an end to HIV stigma. So much has been achieved since the Red Run started – from a dramatic reduction in new HIV diagnoses, to the UK exceeding our UNAIDS 90-90-90 target, to PrEP being made available on the NHS. But there is still so far to go, and it’s important to have one day in the calendar year where the community can gather, take stock, and look ahead to a bright future.
What is the one thing that you want people take after reading this.
IM – That it’s more than a run! It’s not about beating your personal best, rather being your personal best – showing up and participating in something that is bigger than just one person, or one person’s time to complete a 5k, something that strengthens our community and response to HIV.
HW – To echo Ian, my main takeaway is that we need to keep working together as a community to uplift the voices of people living with HIV, to support the wellbeing of people living with HIV, and celebrate lives loved and lost. We can do this on the 26th November through a show of solidarity and collective participation in something bigger than just our individual selves.
It’s easy to get involved in this year’s World AIDS Day Red Run. Visit http://www.redrun.org.uk for more information. The price to enter is £25, but it’s free to attend to see the festivities. The 2022 World AIDS Day Red Run is kindly sponsored by the following sponsors:
Platinum: Gilead, MAC VIVA Glam, State Street, ViiV
Gold: InterBank, the FSCS
Silver: Eagle/Horse Meat Disco, FINTEK, MSD and Royal Bank of Canada
To register and get involved please visit www.redrun.org.uk
The 2022 World AIDS Day Red Run was held in east London’s Victoria Park on 26th November 2022. www.redrun.org.uk
The 2022 World AIDS Day Red Run is sponsored by the following:
Platinum: Gilead, MAC VIVA Glam, State Street, ViiV
Gold: InterBank, the FSCS
Silver: Eagle/Horse Meat Disco, FINTEK, MSD and Royal Bank of Canada
HIV in the UK -There are approximately 106,000 living with HIV in the UK, nearly 50,000 in London and more than 35 million globally[i]. Medical advances have ensured that those living with HIV are able to live healthy and normal lives, however poor mental health and social and economic challenges continue to affect people living with HIV at disproportional rates than the general public meaning that HIV based support services are essential and needed[ii]. In 2,630 in 2020 new HIV diagnoses were made in the UK and of the 106,000 living with HIV, 5% remain undiagnosed[iii] leading to onward HIV transmission.
Positive East has been on the forefront of HIV service and care for nearly 3 decades years; supporting people from point of HIV diagnoses to longer term care. Guided by our mission – to improve the quality of life of individuals and communities affected by HIV – we have developed a holistic range of health and wellbeing programmes from counselling, peer support and information and advice to HIV testing and HIV prevention outreach. Annually, we provide direct support to 3,000 people through our programmes and HIV testing.
Contact Ian Montgomery Ian.firstname.lastname@example.org, 020 7791 9355 for further details
[i] PHE Annual Statistics Report, 2021
[ii] Why we need HIV support Services 2017
[iii] PHE Annual Statistics Report, 2021