COMMUNICATIONS NEWS: Terrence Higgins turns to internet for activists


The Terrence Higgins Trust is hoping to build up an online network of activists around the country within a year. Three "starter

campaigns are being run through its web site, allowing people to write letters or e-mail local newspapers, local radio and their MP.

The charity is one of the latest to sign up to the Advocacy Online service, which hosts campaign web sites for charities. The site is to be launched officially in July to coincide with the organisation's 20th birthday, but can already be reached through (click on the front-page button "Campaign with us"). The site has already attracted more than 200 online campaigners by word of mouth alone, according to Lisa Power, corporate head of policy.

"We have massively increased our dialogue with MPs through the site. We don't control it - we just support people who are developing ongoing relationships with their MPs, and who will help us keep an eye on what's going on in the future locally,

said Power.

Terrence Higgins hopes that these campaigners will help it monitor local prescribing patterns, now that local authorities are no longer compelled to ring-fence funds for HIV prevention.

Many people have also been recruited through the trust's new campaign on discriminatory US entry regulations for those diagnosed with HIV.

People with HIV travelling to the US currently have to declare their status - which means they permanently lose their entry rights - or have to make a false declaration.

Since the US legislation was passed in the 80s, a number of people with HIV have been turned away by US officials and it has effectively criminalised sufferers, the trust said.

This campaign, brought forward to coincide with an EastEnders story line on the same subject last month, has generated a better response than previous HIV campaigns because everyone, not just those with the disease, can identify with the predicament, said Power.

"We think it is important to revive this campaign now. The US is eager to rebuild tourism in the wake of 11 September, and there is clear evidence that the great majority of people with HIV do not use the visa waiver scheme when they visit the US,

she added.

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