Emma Cole has been diagnosed HIV positive since 1991 and has chosen to speak out about living with HIV for the last 33 years.
She began talking publicly as a volunteer at Positive Youth in 1992 before launching her own Positive Voice talk for schools and businesses in 2002. She now speaks annually at schools across the UK and Europe.
Since her diagnosis, Emma has spoken at over 250 different schools and reached an estimated 360,000 young pupils over three decades.
In addition, she has undertaken public speaking engagements to other audiences including pharmaceutical companies, businesses, health service providers, the police, social services, church groups and further education colleges.
Emma has been featured in a number of TV documentaries including the recent BAFTA nominated AIDS – the Unheard Tapes and the 2001 broadcast of Positive Women for the BBC and Sky’s documentary Positive.
“Time to accept – the result is positive” so read an entry in my journal on 11 September 1991. That was the moment that I, a young, white heterosexual woman, realised that the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) did not discriminate; it had the potential to infect any sexually active person and that now included me.
2024 marks 33 years since that fateful day when my life changed irrevocably. In that time many advances have been made with respect to HIV and AIDS but what has changed little in that time is the fear, ignorance and stigma that surround this particular disease.
I made a decision after my diagnosis that I was going to speak out publicly as an HIV positive woman in an attempt to breakdown the misperceptions that many had, and still have about HIV. In delivering my Positive Voice talks I not only continue that commitment but also now bring the perspective of a long-term survivor.