Spotlight on the Blue Sky trust

The Esteem network of independent educators and organisations across the UK (and beyond) are trained, equipped and supported by the acet UK team in their relationships and sex education delivery.

One of our longest running partnerships is with Blue Sky Trust.

Blue Sky Trust was set up in 1992 as a Christian response to HIV, supporting hundreds of men, women and children living with, and affected by HIV, in North East England and North Cumbria. 

Whether it's providing help to come to terms with a diagnosis, peer mentoring, rebuilding confidence or becoming part of a supportive community, Blue Sky Trust provides a confidential and safe place to 'find strength and go on with happiness.'

Quote about HIV stigma

They have a young people's group which has met consistently for many years, as newly diagnosed pre-teens meet others living with the same condition. This could be in the safe space of the Blue Sky Trust building, on a cinema trip, or a 2-day long residential.

Significant friendships are formed, enabling young people to head into adulthood feeling educated, equipped and empowered to live positively with the HIV virus and to safely navigate relationships and manage their treatment and medication. 

Blue Sky Trust’s schools project ‘Think for Yourself’ is enjoying a period of growth and development. Originally set up to raise HIV awareness in schools across the North East region, their trained educators now cover a range of topics within the relationships and sex education curriculum, which will be compulsory from September 2020.

Besides HIV, topics include healthy relationships, consent, navigating the online world, the harmful effects of pornography, and sexual health.

Student feedback

When delivering sessions on sexual health in secondary schools, Ben and Naomi, the Think for Yourself educators, ask the students to list any sexually transmitted infections they know of. The students almost always incorrectly name AIDS as an STI.

This illustrates how much work there is to be done with the general public around even basic knowledge of HIV and AIDS.

It also confirms what the young people who access the support group say is the issue they struggle with the most: 'that HIV and AIDS are not the same thing.' 

Others’ lack of knowledge remains a key factor in those living with HIV feeling judged and isolated, with almost half of British people admitting they'd feel uncomfortable kissing someone with HIV (see the survey). 

When Ben and Naomi talk about HIV in schools, the students are very open, honest and take in information they simply didn't know before. 

As Ben says, “There appears to be a new wave of acceptance and genuine encouragement for people to be themselves. The U=U campaign [Undetectable = Untransmittable] is gathering pace and respected Welsh rugby star, Gareth Thomas, recently disclosed his HIV status to an overwhelmingly positive response. There is hope that the stigma that continually attaches itself to HIV, which our young people correctly label as 'just a virus', can be fought, challenged and beaten."

We were so happy to have Ben contribute to the recent acet UK conference, when he spoke from his experience of working for Blue Sky Trust with young people impacted by HIV. He shared about the specific challenges young people living with HIV face at home, and in school where their HIV status may be a secret.

He challenged all of us to keep HIV a top priority in our school based education and focus on teaching accurately and actively to reduce the discrimination young people living with HIV still face in the UK. 

"It's hugely beneficial being part of the Esteem Network. They show genuine interest in how relationships and sex education is delivered in different parts of the country, and value our input as well as provide us with consistent support and advice. Gareth’s monthly emails are something I look forward to and truly inform and improve our work. There are articles, blogs and crucial news and updates on everything and anything related to RSE. Following @esteem_acetUK on Twitter is also a great way of staying engaged and in the know. acet UK’s Esteem resources around relationships, self-esteem and sexting (particularly the IsItOK? activity) are used by us frequently in classrooms and enable pupils to engage in and understand this sensitive and problematic topic of sending nudes.” Ben, Blue Sky Trust

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