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Posted 12.08.19

Pre-Degree graduate speaks to BBC about learning to live with HIV

By Phillip Buchan

Pre-Degree graduate Aloma Watson-Ratcliffe has spoken to the BBC about her journey, learning to live with HIV after diagnosis as a child.

The inspiring interview follows her public performance as part of Odyssey, the Pre-Degree Summer Show 2019. Diagnosed with HIV at the age of three, Aloma is now 20 years old and lives in Totnes. She joined our Palace Court campus in 2017 to study a UAL Level 3 Extended Diploma in Art & Design.

During the interview with the BBC, Aloma talks about her family history and the moment she was diagnosed,

"We had moved from London to Melbourne when I was very young. My mum went through various stages of being ill - she would get better for a time and then it would spiral. She died in October 2001 and six months later, when I was three, we moved to Totnes in Devon and I was diagnosed as HIV-positive."

She also mentions the life-changing effect that the Children’s HIV Association (CHIVA) has had since she found out about them and the support they offer, in particular at the annual camp event that she attended,

"I was terrified to go. I didn't know it was going to be this life-changing thing but it really was. It was the first time in my life that we were able to say "HIV" all the time. The volunteers would constantly say it, we all had it and it was not scary. We could talk about medication and side effects; we could talk about jokes that we had heard in the playground and we could laugh about them."

Aloma always wanted to challenge perceptions of art and audience experience during her time on the Extended Diploma in Art & Design. This provocative approach to studies was something the teaching staff actively encouraged and supported. 

Aloma’s final major project was a live performance about her experience living with HIV. Taking place during this year’s Summer Show, the event was captured by Plymouth College of Art student Luke Frost, who completed his UAL Level 3 Extended Diploma in Art & Design (Photography) at Palace Court in 2018 and stayed to study Commercial Photography with us at degree-level.

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