This has been a long week. Feels like Monday was months ago and I have no particular ideas as to why, I get tired easily even when I am feeling fine and healthy, I guess it is easy to forget my body is fighting a virus twenty-four-seven even if it is being suppressed by medication.
It’s almost two weeks since I ‘outed’ myself and I am still 100% confident it was the correct decision to take, there’s still only been love and support and no backlash whatsoever. If anything I am actually disappointed more people around me haven’t asked questions about HIV or my diagnosis, it appears there’s still a silence surrounding the illness. I hope with time this changes and people aren’t worried they will ask something that might offend me. There’s a few things coming up over the next few weeks that might instigate some discussion with any luck but keeping quiet about that for the time being, spoilers!
Just as important as breaking the stigma surrounding the virus I want to develop into a role model that newly diagnosed people can recognise and take some comfort from. After the numb feelings drifted away and I realised and could say out loud (in my empty bedroom) ‘I am HIV positive’ I realised I was alone. Back in 2009 I went looking for online communities thinking that with all the different forums, websites etc out there on the WORLD WIDE web there must be a hub of HIV activity with other people looking for the same, whether there was or not I don’t know but what I know is I didn’t find anything. So I made do with what I did know and used the HIV chat room on Gaydar to speak to other positive men instead. This wasn’t a bad thing but obviously there were some constraints, firstly the site is only used by gay men, and I will be the first to admit I struggle to make new gay friends compared to finding female or straight friends. Gay men love to put each other down, especially when someone’s face is already in the mud. Secondly most of the men on the site are there for one reason alone, not that this was always a problem but a lot of times I did actually just want a coffee, not coffee.
I met my boyfriend and I wasn’t alone anymore, until a couple of years later I started to feel the need to want to talk to other HIV positive people. It wasn’t that I didn’t have anyone there for me, I just wanted to speak to people who had gone through the same thing as myself. I’m lucky that I can tell my boyfriend anything although I do tend to worry about worrying him and bottle up occasionally.
I decided to try searching for something again online and this time struck gold finding an amazing site that I have now been a member of for over a year http://www.myhiv.org.uk/ is a fantastic resource for HIV positive people in the UK and I’ve made some great friends on the Community Forums. If you live in the UK and are looking for answers surrounding your diagnosis then I can’t recommend this place more, it isn’t a place full of consultants or counsellors telling you what you ought to do or how you should be feeling, it’s a place where people have gone through the same dilemmas and are there to listen and advise from a first-hand perspective.
I’ve not been alone now for a long time, I’m surrounded by people in my life whether we have a real-life friendship or online acquaintanceship that support me every day, even if they don’t know it. The most amazing thing about the past couple of weeks is all the new people I have had contact with; Twitter is a fantastic place to be now I am open about my HIV status, each new follower has their own story, and each in their own way battles the stigma against HIV positive people.