We asked someone living with HIV to share their story with us; from getting diagnosed as HIV positive, to where they are now.
Read their story below.
“It sounds ridiculous but when I discovered I was HIV positive, I’d already convinced myself that I had it. I’d been ill with the’ flu-like symptoms’ for three days and could barely get out of bed. My housemate who worked as a nurse came into my room to check on me and, at the point he asked me the question “have you had unprotected sex recently?”, I knew it was HIV. It was a gut instinct – I’d had unprotected sex three weeks before and it couldn’t just be a coincidence.
I managed to get to the GUM clinic for a test that same day. I had the prick test there and then but it wasn’t 100% accurate so they took a blood test. Two days later I was called back to the clinic and told I had contracted HIV. It might have only been two days but it gave me time to process the possibility of it – to educate myself and speak to HIV positive friends about the more intricate details. To that point in my life, I’d always had regular check-ups every couple of months and had never caught an STI. I later found out that the person I’d had sex with didn’t know they had HIV but I always tell myself that I knew the risks.
The next few weeks were a whirlwind of blood tests, sexual health visits, hospital appointments and meetings with doctors, nurses, consultants, pharmacists and nutritionists. The support and care of the NHS staff working in this area is truly unparalleled.
My instant reaction was not to tell friends or family that I had HIV and while my family still don’t know, a group of close friends do. Fortunately, I have a fantastic support network around me and an amazing boyfriend - something I struggled with thinking I would never find. I know that some people don’t so I’ve started volunteering with HIV charities and get involved in campaigns like World AIDS Day and It Starts With Me to offer some first-hand advice and support to others.
It sounds like a cliche but living with HIV is no longer a death sentence. Forget what you’ve heard or read - medication has come a long way and although there isn’t a cure (yet) it’s still fairly close to a miracle. Ironically, I feel healthier now than I ever did before – I cut down on drinking and smoking, eat a lot healthier and try to exercise more. Plus, having regular check-ups with my HIV consultant is reassuring and highlights any potential issues.
I wish I was brave enough to put a face to this story but I’m not there yet. I never expected to be in this situation but hopefully this makes you realise that getting tested regularly is a good thing and there’s nothing to feel ashamed or embarrassed about. My advice to anyone? Get tested regularly – just because there aren’t any symptoms, doesn’t mean you’re invincible.”
Visit www.20mintesting.co.uk to find out about HIV testing in Stoke-on-Trent and North Staffordshire.