"My boyfriend of three years and I plan to remain together and have children once I have finished university."
I am 21 year old student from London and I've tested HIV positive in March 2010. Growing up, I was always aware of how many lives HIV was claiming, so when I was told that I had tested positive earlier this year, I was horrified by what was to become of me. For a while I felt as though my life had ended, I was not aware of how far treatment had come along as I had never known anyone with HIV and believed I was just handed over a death sentence.
I was offered counselling with a health advisor in my local HIV clinic and little by little I started to accept my diagnosis and also believe that I still had a future. I was also lucky as my boyfriend (who is negative) was very supportive and was always there when I needed a shoulder to cry on. Since my diagnosis I have started university and started to build my life up again.
I also told my story to woman's magazine company in the September issue with the goal of making people more aware of the risks of HIV and encouraging them to test, as from what I have now learnt, it is not a death sentence and you're better off knowing your status. I felt very proud when I received letters back from readers saying how my story had encouraged them to go and get tested and one of the readers who wrote back to the magazine about my story and how it had influenced her to get tested and do volunteer work won letter of the month.
HIV has changed my life dramatically, but I am glad I know my status as knowledge is power. My boyfriend of three years and I plan to remain together and have children once I have finished university. We practice safer sex 100% of the time from when I received my diagnosis.
As for stigma or discrimination, I cannot say that I have personally received any. My friend who I disclosed to and my partner have not treated me any differently to how they did before because I am still me. I'm glad that I have found such good support from doctors, nurses, health advisors, college councillors and teachers, and friends which I have made from support groups such as Body and Soul and Positively UK (which I rang up quite frequently in the first few weeks of my diagnosis and they also phoned me to see how I was doing). Without their help I would not be as accepting of my illness as I am now.