By Gillian Rollason
Gillian is one of AIDemocracy’s 2010-2011 Issue Analysts. Find our more about Gillian below, and about our
Student Issue Analysts.

I’m 24, I’m invincible. At least that’s how I feel. But my daily life – how I pay my bills, or what I do at the weekend – could have repercussions far more serious than whether I’m able to make interesting small talk at that student party…

The HIV epidemic – which has claimed 25 million people so far – is unique because it is our behaviour that determines patterns of infection and our risk of exposure. Our personal health, and the health of our communities, is dictated by the way we choose or are forced to behave. What makes this issue really challenging is the behaviour in question concerns some of the most sensitive issues of our personal lives. Who we have sex with, and how we do it, whether we take drugs, and how desperate is our need for cash? These are just some of the questions that determine the spread of this disease.

As young people, our responsibility is twofold; we must look after our own health – whether that means limiting our risk of contracting the virus, or maintaining our health as HIV positive individuals – and we must promote an enlightened and constructive attitude towards the virus, limiting its detrimental impact on the lives of those around us. Starting with ourselves and our peers, we can begin to eliminate stigma and ignorance. No one deserves to be ostracised from our society because of their sero-status, and the fear that leads to panic and prejudice is best combated through education and frank, open discussions about HIV. We must take responsibility for our bodies and for our actions. As young people our behaviour may be statistically risky, but we are also ideally placed to change attitudes and challenge the prejudice that has so far hindered our response to a very human crisis.

My name is Gillian Rollason. HIV/AIDS is the focus of my doctoral research, where I investigate impacts of the disease in terms of international and strategic security. My work stems from a desire to promote the voices of marginalised groups and individuals, and to ensure that the security we seek in today’s globalised world really is security for everyone. I live in the UK and attend Swansea University, where I studied International Relations, Social Research (MSc) and am currently a PhD candidate.