Steve is 30 and has been living with HIV for over a decade. He works for local government and lives in Hampshire with his partner and their cat. For World AIDS Day 2016 he shares his story.
What do you think of when you hear ‘HIV’? What does the face you see look like?
For me, I’ll be honest, it was those ‘Red Nose Day’ videos of children crying and adults getting thinner and thinner.
I never imagined that one day it would be my face, but just over ten years ago that is exactly what happened.
Coming out is always tricky, I told my family I was gay when I was 15 (Mum cried). Having to do it all over again at 20 to tell them I was HIV+ was not much easier (Mum cried again), but surprisingly, it was not a great deal harder either.
I’d been dating a guy for a while who had HIV and never told me. I was diagnosed on the 1 August 2006, at around half past four in the afternoon and was surprisingly calm. I remember that after being told, I didn’t panic, or cry. I just sat thoughtfully for a moment then asked; “So, what happens next?”
Living with HIV
Since then, for the past ten years, I have lived with HIV and continued to try and face it in the same, relatively calm, way. I have always been open about it, and told my friends, lovers and employers the truth.
They are usually surprised because, in all honesty, I’m not a face people would normally associate with HIV. If I may take a moment to describe myself, I’m 30, relatively slim (though with a fondness for cake), ginger and I work in an office.
It amuses me sometimes, that under the Disability Discrimination Act, something that the HIV positive community and those living with disabilities came together to secure, I am disabled.
With HIV I was considered to be disabled from the moment of diagnosis.
The Disability Discrimination Act is now 21 years old, older than I was when I was diagnosed.
There are thousands like me and HIV is not picky – despite the fact a politician elected to the Northern Irish Assembly didn’t know that heterosexual people could be affected by HIV – it does, and thousands of them too.
What does HIV look like to you?
My opinion has always been that if I don’t talk about HIV or AIDS, if I try and keep my HIV diagnosis the secret, people will think that there’s something about it that I need to hide.
By accident of birth there isn’t.
I was born in a country where health care is free and the medications you need to keep you alive are given to you. The anti-retro-viral drugs that are now available can control the virus.
This means that if you test positive, as long as you test early and start treatment, you can expect to live as long as someone without HIV and not just live, but have a life.
This World Aids Day, we come together again to remember those who fought against stigma and stood up for equality protection under the law but aren’t with us today, and we say thank you.
Wear your red ribbon with pride.