My last HIV test was in October 2009, a long time ago for very obvious reasons – I discovered I was living with the virus and probably had been for a few months, by the time I was diagnosed my cd4 was already at a level where my immune system could be significantly compromised so I started treatment virtually straight away, wrestling with the child (and Alex) proof medication bottle for the first time just before Christmas that year.
I had always routinely tested since moving to Manchester in 2006, visiting the sexual health clinic every six months just to make sure everything was hunky-dory. I’d never really thought much of it, never listening to the nurses each time when they asked how I’d feel if the test came back positive, muttering something back to them about how I would fine – because I believed it would be something I would never have to worry about.
But viruses don’t care about what we think. They don’t discriminate. HIV can and does affect everyone.
With events in the media over the past week or so it’s really easy to see why people are afraid of getting tested, the potential consequences of a diagnosis splashed across the tabloids with dire headlines and sensationalist reporting – designed to scare and incite fear. But the really scary fact is that 18,100 people were estimated to be living in the UK during 2014 without knowing their status. And whilst they don’t know they potentially spread the virus to other people.
When I spoke to Matt Barbet on 5 News earlier this week I spoke about what it means to be “undetectable” – when medication suppresses the virus to a level where it is extremely unlikely to transmit to anyone else. Medication protects you and the people you have sex with. But you’re only going to be on treatment if you know your status.
HIV isn’t the disease it once was, science is beating it. Every year medical and pharmaceutical advances are being made and people continue to live well with the virus. Don’t let the stigma put you off getting a test.
The best thing about my diagnosis is being part of a community of people who look out for each other. So if you test positive don’t worry – we’re all here to help and provide as much support as you need.