“All your results are clear except you are HIV positive”

…the young male STI nurse stated matter of factly. I sank back in the hard chair and for the first time I experienced tunnel vision. The nurse proceeded to write on the board – god knows what, maybe it was a diagram of the virus, I’ll never know.

I asked him “Will I still be the same person who walked in here today when I walk out?” or something along these lines. He didn’t answer or reassure me; maybe I didn’t say it aloud at all. I remember not being comforted or assured by his expression. Next thing I remember sitting in another room and a heavily pregnant nurse taking my blood. The same nurse who asked me a week before did I want to have a HIV test included in my tests for STIs. (This was the first time I had a screening for STIs, and I had absolutely no symptoms) I said “oh go on then”.

I was very aware for the first time of my new condition. I worried I may pass it onto her. I said “oh be careful” as she took my blood. I wondered should she be allowed anywhere near me at all. As I left she was crying. Not for the first time I felt I had to reassure others I was fine.

I walked out the door in a daze, Oh god my sons only had me, and what will they do when I’m gone. I stopped this thinking and went in to buy the dinner for the boys return from school. I added a bunch of flowers and a big yellow cup for myself.

I was an Irish woman in my late thirties with two young teenagers alone in London.

When they returned from school and had their dinner I said “oh lads I’m off to bed, got a bit of a headache’. “ I needed some time alone to ease the raising panic. Still I told no one. I filled my new yellow cup with tea and headed for the sanctuary of my bed, a ritual I did many times over the years.

That night I woke up. I could feel the plaster from the blood test tugging at my skin. I deliberately didn’t touch it. A part of me thought maybe it’s not real. A part of me thought it is real you don’t need to touch it to believe, get used to the idea. Maybe if I touched it alone in my bed with no support, and my kids asleep in the room next door, I’m not sure how I would have reacted.

I wasn’t taking any chances.
Well it’s now 9 years on and each year I acknowledge this day and in later years celebrate it and how well I’m doing on successful medication. Although I found over the years that the medication and the medical staff, doctors and nurses are great (besides my first experience in London).
I feel strongly that people with HIV need the support of others with HIV and counsellors trained in the area.

I know that people are given terrible diagnosis every day, much worse than HIV but with HIV comes the immediate fear of who to tell, stigma/rejection/fear/ either imagined or real is a problem.

Today my sons are doing great studying and working in London. I am in a loving relationship with a HIV negative man and working towards a career in counselling.

I would like to thank and acknowledge the support I received from The Sexual Health Centre, 16 Peters Street Cork and Irene Kidd Murphy (the counsellor) in particular and more recently Nollaig (counsellor). I could have done with an Irene or Nollaig when I found out that day.

Speaking to other HIV positive people who use the services in Peter Street, they all found it very helpful with the one to one counselling, the regular support group and just meeting others with the same condition for coffees and chats. Also we can avail of free massage therapies. There is also a helpline.
Services provided by SHC are confidential and free.

One to one counselling, talk to others with HIV, HIV support groups, massage therapies, a helpline, information and blogs for people with HIV.