Local businessman David, from Harborne, describes his journey after being diagnosed with HIV.
Five years ago I went to Ibiza for my friend’s stag do. I came home feeling rather poorly which I put down to burning the candle at both ends for seven days. But, I decided to go to the doctor as my fingers were going numb.
One of the things he said was that he needed to do a test for HIV. In my head I was like “no way, I’m careful, I always take precautions”. After thinking about it I felt a bit spooked, so I went to the Whittal Street clinic.
I was tested and the day after I received a phone call. “Hi, is there any way you can come in to see us?” I thought to myself that’s not normal, surely? So, I went in fearing the worst. I was taken into a room where I was sat down and asked “Do you know why you’re here?” I said I had a pretty good idea.
Then she said it: “You’ve tested positive for HIV.”
I had mixed emotions, ranging from thinking “what am I going to do” to “it’s cool, I’ll deal with it.” She said at the time don’t worry, it’s no longer a death sentence. I thought to myself I wasn’t sure I classed it like that anyway. I already had a basic understanding about HIV and she said look at it like this: “You could have cancer that is harder and more invasive to treat and that could kill you.”
When I came out of the clinic I went straight to work and spoke to a close friend and work colleague. We both had a cry and I did my day’s work feeling slightly numb. After I’d finished I spoke with my friend Anna, who is the sort of person who is calm, talks sense and is supportive, without being too emotional, and I felt much better. This was only just the start though, emotionally.
Over the coming months I started going into hospital quite regularly to have checks and see where my body was at and how it was reacting to the virus. Let me tell you, I was extremely anxious about all this and absolutely hated going to the hospital, but the more I went, the easier it got and I started to know all the staff who are lovely. Now I really don’t get nervous or anxious anymore.
I started taking medication, carried on having checks to see if the medicine was doing the job it needed to, but at the cost of horrendous side effects. I didn’t sleep properly for 18 months and suffered from terrible nightmares and a bad stomach. I was regularly asked how I was getting on and was always honest about the side effects but was worried about swapping to a different medication just in case I swapped those side effects with others. I finally changed as I couldn’t handle them any longer to find that my new tablets gave me no side effects and performed as they should.
I’m a healthy and an undetectable positive male. This means I cannot pass HIV on to anyone else. I actually feel like I understand what’s going on with my body more now than I ever did! Because I’m tested for various things to make sure all is working as it should, and to be honest I only have to go once every six months now, so it’s really no inconvenience to my life.
During all of this I was single for quite a while and thought no one is going to date me now.
Years ago I dated a guy for a while and he told me he was positive. I freaked out and said it couldn’t go any further (at this time I knew absolutely nothing about HIV and it scared me) so I guess I was thinking people would think the same towards me. But I was pleasantly surprised. I had a few people that I told, that were a little unsure, but overall it’s not really been a big issue.
I didn’t tell my family for 18 months because I was unsure about how they would react and my mom worked in hospitals when Aids was prevalent and I didn’t want to scare her. Once I was comfortable with it, I spoke out. My mom was upset, not because I had HIV, but because I had not told her and because I didn’t give her the opportunity to be there for me when actually I needed her the most.
The lady at the clinic once told me that I will get to a point where I won’t even think about being positive and she was right. I take my tablet, don’t really think about it anymore and I’m happy to talk to people about it and give information or advice.
I live a busy life, have a busy business and having HIV doesn’t stop me doing anything, and it’s really not affected my life in any way.
I had a choice at the start, and that was to let it get to me or not. I had the mentality that I can’t change this, so I just need to get on with it. And I’m happy.