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This Digital Life: The app born out of a life changing HIV diagnosis

Katie Wright on how campaigner is busting myths about the disease

Published 18/06/2016

Vital information: Jabob Alexander has vowed to turn his HIV diagnosis into a force for good
Vital information: Jabob Alexander has vowed to turn his HIV diagnosis into a force for good

In the nine months since he discovered he was HIV-positive on his 22nd birthday, Jacob Alexander's life hasn't been easy. "I've struggled with depression and have felt my life unravel," he says. "I developed rashes, sores, aching joints and endured drenching night sweats for months. My best friend rejected me, sharing jokes with his friends about my HIV status. I was shocked the day he bought his own fridge for his room, scared that I would 'infect' his food."

But the support of his family spurred the London College of Fashion (part of the University of the Arts London) student on and he vowed to turn his diagnosis into a force for good, launching The Positive Project app with a talk at the TEDxUAL event in May this year.

Available on iPhone and Android, the app aims to bust the myths surrounding HIV, providing information on how it's contracted and treated. "People do sadly enough mistakenly think HIV can be caught through mere touch or sharing plates of food or just by being around us," the aspiring menswear designer says.

"This is simply not true. HIV is passed on by having unprotected sex and through infected bodily fluids."

Designed to appeal to the generation that can't go anywhere without Google Maps, the app also features a map of locations where you can get tested.

Red t-shirts emblazoned with the plus symbol are available to buy in the app, with a percentage of proceeds going to the St Stephen's Aids Trust and two leading sexual health clinics.

"I want the app to connect people, by having them post selfies wearing the Positive Project t-shirts in the selfie map to spread the right kind of positivity around the world," Alexander explains.

"But I also want users to be able to very practically access health information and support when they most need it - all by simply downloading my app."

According to the Terrence Higgins Trust, an estimated 103,700 people are living with HIV in the UK and 17% of those do not know they're infected.

With the app, Alexander wants to show HIV-positive people "they are not alone and there are other people, just like them, going through the same journey".

"With the right treatment these days, people with HIV can live long lives and have the near-normal life expectancy - it's not a death sentence."

It's certainly not for Alexander, who was gone from student to campaigner in a matter of months.

So-called Generation Selfie gets a lot of criticism for spending too long on their phones and Facebook, but this millennial has used his digital skills for a truly worthwhile cause - and for that he deserves nothing but praise.

You can download The Positive Project from iTunes, or the Google Play store.

Also, watch Jacob Alexander's TEDx talk at

Belfast Telegraph

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