The Student Stop AIDS National Gathering took place last weekend on the 2nd and 3rd of November and saw students from all over the UK descend on Edinburgh! The weekend was full of exciting opportunities for everyone to take part in and was a great chance to come together to learn how to effectively campaign against AIDS.

The weekend started with everyone getting to know each other and carrying out some relaxing stretches ;). And then it was on to celebrating the announcement from Justine Greening that the UK is pledging 1 billion to the Global Fund. This is a massive success for the campaign and for all the students who were involved in tweeting Justine Greening to pledge this money.

We then were extremely lucky to have some amazing speakers who took time out of their busy schedules to come talk about what they are passionate about in their campaigning aspects of Stop AIDS. Sophie Strachan from Positively UK gave an insight into the lack of care that people in Prisons living with HIV receive and the work Positively UK are involved in to try and prevent the stigma and in experience that surrounds the prison service in dealing with HIV prisoners. Katy Athersuch from MSF Access Campaign, this talk explored the problems with the Research and Development system of drugs and the impact that this has on HIV anti-retrovirals.

In the afternoon there were workshops to help society’s get creative when they go back to their universities with workshops on, Art and Activism, Campaign Strategy, Media Engagement and Lobbying. The Lobbying workshop was extremely useful as our final speaker was MP Sheila Gilmour. Sheila Gilmour helped put our lobbying skills to the test and discussed the most effective ways to do so.

We were then incredibly lucky to watch the documentary ‘How to Survive a Plague.’ This was a documentary on the early years of the AIDS epidemic and the effects of ACT UP and TAG.

After the movie it was then off to the Pub Quiz organised by the Edinburgh students before a well-deserved sleep to get ready for the upcoming day.

Sunday was a day full of workshops and looking atthe year ahead. The knowledge workshops included, HIV 101, HIV 102 and TRIPS. It was then onto steering Committee Elections where seven lucky people were elected to represent their area and liaise with London.

It was then time for the ACTION!! This involved everyone getting face paint on either a German or French Flag and learning some very effective chants! We all then marched down to the German and French consulates in Edinburgh to hand in our letters to persuade the French and German governments to pledge more to the Global Fund to unlock the UK’s 1 billion.

The weekend was an amazing experience and everyone learned a great deal about the campaign whilst meeting some new people and having an absolute laugh. I for one cannot wait for next year’s National Gathering and for future success of our campaigns. German governments to pledge more to the Global Fund to unlock the UK’s 1 billion.