Nigerian immigrant Bisi Alimi felt so angry at the anti-HIV comments of UKIP leader Nigel Farage that he decided to do something about it. His "hug me" stunt is meant to give a face to immigrants and fight the stigma of HIV.
Alimi, who is HIV positive and emigrated to the UK in 2007, went down to the English seaside town of Ramsgate in South Thanet to hold a "hug me" stunt against Nigel Farage. The controversial politician is attempting to become an MP in the area.
Alimi set up outside a UKIP event and wrote on a sign: "I'm an immigrant. Hug me or ask a question."
He told BuzzFeed News: "The moment I carried the placard there was silence and people were a little bit afraid for the first five minutes. It was actually a little girl who came up to me first and gave me a hug.
"There were quite a few people who called me a scumbag, to told me to go back to where I came from. I wasn't going to let them destroy me and have their way."
Alimi said the reception was overwhelmingly positive: "I was shocked myself. I have seen it on YouTube and I’ve seen so many people do it. Here was a black man standing in a white town with an aged population, getting hugs from all these people."
Farage's comments linking HIV and "health tourism" have been widely condemned, but Alimi said immigrants need to speak up.
"The discourse for this election championed by UKIP is about immigrants," he said. "The one thing that has stood out is lies by Nigel Farage around HIV-positive people and the NHS.
"It's easy to blame someone who is HIV positive. We need to blame someone and the best person we can blame is the immigrants.
"We need to put a face to immigration in this country. Maybe this is it."
Alimi is hoping he inspires other immigrants to come forward: "Immigrants need to be invited into the space. Immigrants are never asked for their stories in the country."
Mark Di Stefano is a Media and Politics Reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
Contact Mark Di Stefano at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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