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Equal HIV Fertility Rights gave me my dreams back

Alan ONeill

I come from a large, close-knit family. As the eldest of four children, with more than 30 cousins, I grew up in a house that was always full of kids. Family has always been very, very important to me.

Despite this, after coming out when I was 16, I felt I wasn’t worthy of having children of my own, as a gay man. I had a running joke with Mum that I was just going to get a goldfish, because I didn’t want kids, and wouldn’t be giving her grandchildren. But deep down inside, I did want a family of my own.

When I reached my mid-20s, and was in my first serious relationship, I began to mature and come to terms with my identity. For the first time I started to feel like having a family was something that might be on the cards for me. My partner and I even had discussions about it. I was beginning to feel worthy of being a parent for the first time.

Then I got diagnosed as HIV positive. To begin with, it was something I struggled with. It was a huge shock, but over time, it was something I learned more about and began to come to terms with. Part of my learning involved me thinking about my rights as someone living with HIV and looking into the discrimination experienced by people living with HIV.

By now I had a different partner, and again, we had begun to speak about one day having children. I knew some people who’d gone through the process of fertility treatment, so I began to do a bit of research of my own to see if it might be an option for us. It was then that I realised that I would not be allowed to do it.

The realisation set me 10 steps back again. I felt the shame coming back. The shame that because of my HIV status, I wouldn’t be able to give my partner what he wanted. That really affected our relationship, but that shame stopped me from openly discussing it with him.

I also just felt really sad. I want a house full of kids, a home like I had, one that reminds me of my own home.

National AIDS Trust’s campaign educated me more on the specifics of the legislation. Until then I hadn’t realised that the ban on fertility treatment only applied to LGBT+ people living with HIV, I thought it was all people with HIV. So I thought: Oh, OK, it’s because I’m gay!

Then I got angry. I was nonstop posting on social media during last year’s Pride month, blasting the posts out, passing the petition around internal networks, speaking with my gay uncle in the West Country to spread the word via his networks, involving my local authority, getting my friends involved and asking them to share with their workplace connections as well. Just trying in any way that I could to support the campaign.

And then I remember hearing the announcement that the legislation was going to be changed – just a short mention in Parliament last October. A friend texted to tell me, and I just couldn’t believe it, until I saw it with my own eyes, popping up on my screen while I was at work.

I thought: It’s just literally given me my dreams back.

My basic dreams – to have a husband, and kids and the whole “white picket fence” life. All this time of knowing that I couldn’t have children had put a barrier in place to me forming relationships. I’d immediately think that I wasn’t going to be good enough, and that came across when I went on dates.

Now, that’s all changed, not only in terms of children, but for finding a partner as well. And it’s made me so happy.

So now the pressure’s on! I’ve made such a big deal out of it, I feel I need to deliver on the promise of these kids running around now! It’s definitely within my 10-year plan. I’m going to be a lot happier when I go on dates now, so hopefully I will find the right person to make a family with.

I think what National AIDS Trust does is amazing. It’s thanks to them that I first learned how the previous legislation discriminated against people like me, and their campaign has led to the amendment that means so much for my future. But they do more than that. They know that HIV is not just about gay people. They really are for everyone.

May 28, 2024 By santi.agra