Coming out as HIV Positive
Publish Date: 03/10/2012
Lee is 37, lives in Manchester and was diagnosed HIV+ve on 12th June 2012. Here he talks about the first few months of coming to terms with a positive.
“My Doctor told me about my HIV status as they were the ones who did my test.
I went to the Doctors because I had a bad rash, I wasn’t expecting to be asked to take a HIV test” says Lee. "I thought the rash was just because of the heat combined with my Eczema, but apparently the rash can be one of the symptoms and the doctor had seen it before. I was totally shocked. I am usually really careful and I have been in a monogamous relationship for two years so HIV or any other Sexually Transmitted Infection wasn’t anything I was worried about”.
HIV & Lee
"Physically it doesn’t affect me, but mentally it's a very different story. Being told that HIV is no different to Diabetes, but diabetes doesn’t have the stigma attached to it. I have received a great deal of support from people living with HIV from both friends and George House Trust too.” However Lee has had one or two ‘surprises’ along the way. “I have lost a few friends that I decided to disclose to because they don’t want to be 'associated’ with someone who is 'poisonous' or has what they term as 'Gay Plague’.”
“There is a great deal of ignorance and misinformation and fear surrounding HIV. I wouldn’t wish HIV onto my worst enemy. I struggle with my diagnosis and have to be thankful I have support in friends and my partner, who has been very supportive in keeping me from going off the rails. One of the things I have found out is that there is help out there for me but nothing for my partner. Although he is negative he still lives with HIV through me.”
Disclosing Your Status
“It is important to consider your partner when disclosing your HIV status because either way stigma is attached because of association and if someone discloses to you it’s important you remain confidential about that, tell no- one. It is the person’s decision to disclose, no one else’s.”
“At first I didn’t talk about HIV in relationships when I thought I was negative but now I am living with HIV it is something I have to. But I am very careful about who I talk to and what I say because of all the stigma attached. It's not important to put your self through the agony of telling people as quite often the reaction can be very negative so only disclose if you can really trust people or if you are going to enter a relationship involving sex (protected of course).”
When asked what he thinks about those people who don’t think HIV is such a big issue anymore, Lee reacts swiftly; "Wake up to your self, it's a very big deal and I just hope you never have to walk in my shoes and feel what I felt when I was rejected and scared to tell people, wondering if every ache and pain you suffer is the onset of something more serious because you have HIV. People need to really wake up.”
“ I am very scared about my future and what will happen to me and I feel very low and drained some days but I have learned that I am stronger than I thought. I have a core of really good friends and I found out the real truth about friendship. If just one person changes their sexual practices then this interview was not in vain. My thoughts go out to those guys who are newly diagnosed and don’t have a good support network as there isn’t a great deal of counselling out there and often long waiting lists.”
Lee has compiled a list for us on how we can all better understand HIV:
Understanding HIV (Lee’s Checklist )
· More education in schools to educate that everyone is at risk and that it’s not as hard to catch as some people think.
· For gay men who are known as 'bug chasers' to know that HIV is a long term chronic condition and you won’t automatically get benefits because you are living with HIV.
· More workshops for HIV negative people on the dangers of HIV.
· More help for families and loved ones of people living with HIV.
· More funds spent on counselling and newly diagnosed people.
The George House Trust have a buddy support which Lee aim’s to take part in. To find out more, Tel: 0161 274 4499. www.ght.org.uk