"I felt incredibly guilty and blamed myself for becoming positive."
Both my parents died because of their HIV when I was 20 years old which was devastating. I tested regularly for HIV after that and the results always came back as negative despite the fact that I led a very chaotic lifestyle. I turned my life around when I turned 30 and started taking better care of myself, so I was horrified when I tested positive for HIV. I felt incredibly guilty and blamed myself for becoming positive. I had recently split up with my partner so I also felt very isolated, particularly because I had moved from Portugal and English wasn't my first language.
Because I had witnessed my parents dying from HIV-related health problems I initially felt that I would never be healthy again, both physically and mentally. I had heard stories about the severe side effects of HIV medication, so I was really scared to start and worried that I would need to tell my employer because I assumed I would need to take lots of time off work.
I was referred to a charity that was very helpful. They explained to me about the improvements in treatment and life expectancy and that I didn't have to disclose to my employees if I didn't want to and if I did and experienced any problems I was protected by the law against discrimination. They continue to give me a lot of support and have referred me to other organisations that can help, as well as peer support. Taking to other people living with HIV has been particularly helpful.