Initial Diagnosis

I was expecting my positive result but it was still a big shock. I was worried about being tested as I had been having unprotected sex with my partner of the time.
After having the test I received a phone call about 3 days later telling me there was an issue with my blood results.

On arrival at the STI clinic I met with the counsellor who informed me that my result had come back positive. All of the knowledge I had about living with HIV went out of my head and on hearing my status I immediately had thoughts of dying and getting my affairs in order. The counsellor kept talking but due to my initial panic I couldn’t hear what she was saying for quite some time. The counsellor asked me where I wanted to go from here and that grounded me. The counsellor informed me of the services that were available and that my positive status wasn’t a death sentence. She also stressed that this wasn’t my fault and that I had no reason to feel ashamed. I spoke to the counsellor for two or three hours and by the time I left an appointment had been made for the HIV clinic.

While walking home I crossed a bridge and seriously considered throwing myself off so I wouldn’t have to deal with any of what I had just heard.
Fortunately I knew a health worker who was there for me. He didn’t like the idea of me being at home that evening and advised that I have someone stay with me on that night. I decided to spend the evening alone as I needed time to digest the news.

The next morning I phoned my best friend who told me to come right round to her place. After telling her about my result I told her I would have to have separate cups and towels even though I knew that the virus couldn’t be transmitted in this way. My friends’ response was to pick up my cup and drink from it. At this point we both laughed.
I was fortunate in that I knew of a support group for positive people and attended a meeting a few days later. Attending these meetings was the beginning of me seeing that my life wasn’t over. There were people at these meetings who had been diagnosed 25 years ago and were still healthy and in long term relationships. I thought I would never have sex again and was adamant about never having sex or a relationship again.

Listening to what other people had to say at the first meeting made me realise that it wasn’t a death sentence but my feelings about being diseased did not go away and I wondered who would want a relationship with someone who was HIV positive.
For the first month I kept referring to myself as diseased. With the help of the support group I came to accept that I was HIV positive and began to think about relationships again.

Sex & Relationships

There was a guy in my support group who was diagnosed shortly before me and he had met somebody. The fact that he had met somebody started me thinking it was possible for me and maybe I could take a chance. I went on a dating site and met with a guy. He turned out to be a nice guy. He was the first stranger that I told about my status. As he leaned into kiss me I panicked and turned away saying ‘I just can’t do this’. He said ‘You’re HIV positive’.

It was a huge relief that he had said it and took the onus off me to tell him. I told him I was. He was very understanding as he had an ex partner who was positive. I was very fortunate that this was the first guy I met. We saw each other for about a month but we just didn’t click. It had nothing to do with the HIV status and we are still friends. My feelings about relationships have changed. I’m definitely not the person I was. I would have been very quick to get involved with somebody in the past before I was HIV positive. I’m still open to relationships but now I really take my time due to the fear of disclosure. Disclosure is still a huge issue for me.

Disclosure

When I was first diagnosed I was advised by a health worker to give myself some time before disclosing. I decided that I would only disclose if there was a good reason. I still question myself about why I’m telling someone. There is a big trust issue about telling a stranger. The fear of disclosure has changed my approach to life because I am not as open when meeting new people. I think of this as a positive thing as I may have been too open too soon in the past.

If I meet with a potential sexual partner I think it is important that I tell them about my status before anything sexual happens. However this is an issue for me as I live in a small city and I’m afraid of who they would reveal it to. I have come to terms with my illness and don’t feel a need to disclose to everyone. People who are not in my life directly don’t need to know that I am positive.

Medication

Meds are different for everybody. Some people can start a medication regime within the first 6 months after diagnosis while others can go for years without starting on medication. I was diagnosed about a year and a half before I started on meds. There is a lot to think about before starting on a medication. I really had to talk it out with my consultant and the liaison nurse. I was very tired and was getting ill a lot so It was decided that I would benefit from taking medication sooner. The medication regime has changed my life significantly in good and bad ways. I felt depressed and suffered severe stomach upset on some of my medication. I have pushed for changes in my meds three times.

The regime I am currently on is suiting me much better than the previous two. I am really happy with the new regime but It is very important that patients are very open with their doctors about their reactions to the medication so that it can be changed if there are any problems. I find support groups really helpful as you can hear from other people about their experiences and this can help in making decisions. Finding the correct medication is very important as you learn that when you do you can take the meds without suffering.