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bearded & flushed

Bearded and Flushed is a partnership between Naz, Sophia Forum, 4M and Positively UK and was funded by the Public Health England Innovation Fund 21/22. the Workshops were facilitated by actor and writer Maggie Saunders.

In 2018 approximately 11,100 women of potentially menopausal age (45-56) attended HIV care in the UK, a 5-fold increase over 10 years. Women living with HIV are more likely to be at risk of early menopause than women without HIV. There are currently an estimated 30,400 women living with HIV in the UK, of those 1,800 are undiagnosed and 19,100 are Black African Women. This project took a fresh approach to growing older with HIV.


Bearded & Flushed provided space for 16 women ageing with HIV, to discover their creative voice over a series of writing workshops focussing on living well with HIV and going through the menopause. More and more women with HIV are getting older and experiencing menopause, but they face a double taboo. These writing workshops gave creative expression to one of the most under spoken and under-researched areas of women's lives.


Using peer support, sex-positive language and positive psychology to build safe places, the women explored living with HIV and the menopause. Over the course of the workshops, the groups grew in confidence with their writing, through games and exercises, and in the support, they gave each other. Their shared experience of living with HIV and journeying through the menopause highlighted similarities and differences culturally and emotionally, which provided a rich platform to write from.


The result is a life-affirming collection of stories, poems, haikus and love letters by women modelling extraordinary talent, courage and wisdom to countless other women going through the menopause and living with HIV.


Following on from these workshops, we filmed individual vignettes and a short film featuring the work and stories of some of the women from the courses, directed by Tom Line.

"Bearded and Flushed is a genuinely groundbreaking project - allowing us to engage with and understand the experiences of older women with HIV, a group who have been historically underrepresented in research and popular culture.  As a clinician, I learned so much.  As a perimenopausal woman, I found comfort, solidarity and hope in these stories.  Thank you for a powerful and moving evening."

Dr Shema Tariq PhD FRCP (she/her)

Postdoctoral Clinical Research Fellow & Consultant in HIV/Sexual Health

UCL Centre for Clinical Research in Infection and Sexual Health

"This creative journey has been a revelation. That we can talk about and tackle an issue which for centuries has been such a taboo subject, in a fun, thoughtful, provocative, sexy, loud and sensitive way. All rolled into one. It was amazing to learn, to share and to celebrate my writing with my fellow sisters living with HIV and going through the menopause. I didn't know what to expect when I signed up for the workshop. But boy was I glad I did. Because I made special, practical and fun memories with a group of incredible women."  

Bearded & Flushed Writer 

Find out more


highlights of the 'Bearded & Flushed' live spoken word event (THE Cinema Museum, London). Directed by Tom Line.
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