"Nothing can prepare you for how you will feel when you're told you have HIV."
In 1998 I was unaware I was ill, but I was diagnosed with HIV and put on medication immediately. Over the following months I had to give up work to help the treatment work properly and slowly I began to feel better, but only then did I realise just how ill I had been.
It's taken a while to get the HIV to a manageable level but it has now been well managed for over 10 years. But nothing can prepare you for how you will feel when you’re told you have HIV. Stigma and understanding are better now than they were but ignorance is still widespread.
My consultant thinks I may have been HIV positive since 1982 when I had an unusual illness called Guillam-Barre syndrome, as this has been linked to early HIV infection and my life style at the time was risky... if I had known then I was HIV positive I don’t think I would be here now.
Even with medication this isn’t an easy thing to live with, it impacts all the time from taking pills every day to relationships, going to the dentist to diet, and going on holidays to insurance. On a personal level I think acceptance and knowledge have helped me a lot and I am now happier than I have been in years.