A CAMPAIGNER is hoping to set up a safe space in Runcorn for those affected by HIV.

Hayley Smith is fundraising to create a hub where residents affected by the disease can go confidentially for a free home test kit, counselling, or a general chat and advice.

She has campaigned daily to raise awareness of the disease since watching Channel 4’s It’s A Sin earlier this year – a drama which explores the lives of a group of friends living in the UK during the HIV and AIDS crisis of the 1980s.

The 48-year-old said: “It’s all about giving support.

“It must be horrendous if you don’t know if there’s anyone out there to help and you’re alone and worried sick.

“To share it with somebody must be a huge relief.”

Hayley is joined in her efforts by her friends Becca and Stacey de Prez, Jude Bellfield-Dowling and Natalie Clutton – with whom she has set up a group called Northwest HIV Support.

As a sufferer of Crohn’s disease, which she was diagnosed with at 12 years old, Hayley is familiar with the isolation and ignorance that comes with experiencing a long-term illness.

The campaigner is also hoping to reduce the stigma around the disease through raising awareness.

She added: “People are still scared to come forward and speak out about it or to get help even though it’s not a death sentence anymore.

“The first letter of HIV is H, for human.

“Those with the disease need to be treated like other people.”

It is estimated that there are more than 6,000 people in the UK who are HIV positive but undiagnosed due to a lack of testing and correct treatment.

Recently, Hayley tried to get a free home testing kit as an experiment.

However, they were not readily available and she had to pay around £30 - highlighting the issue around the affordability of care for those affected by HIV.

“It’s a disease that people don’t want to know about and it hasn’t gone away,” she said.