I WAS only 21 years old when I was diagnosed as HIV-positive on July 10, 2012.
It felt like my life had been taken away from me and with that, the dream that someday I would be a father. How would I go about telling those who I have intimate relationships with that I was HIV-positive? Let alone my family and friends? I was fearful of having to live a lie, but knew that I couldn’t. I’m always so upfront about the truth.
[showads ad=MREC]Speaking of the truth, the past three years have not been easy for me. Just a few months after being diagnosed I lost my job. The company I was working for said that they didn’t feel comfortable working with someone who had HIV, and that they had to let me go.
I ended up being homeless and from then on it became a nightmare. I decided to take the easy way out by using drugs, such as crystal meth, to escape from the pain. I knew I had acquired HIV from my ex-partner and we were surrounded by drugs at the time.
However, I was not taking my medications regularly as it made me feel ill and I could not afford them.
Almost a year later in May 2013, I went to stay with my oldest brother in Newcastle, NSW and visited John Hunter Hospital for some blood tests. I was admitted into the overnight unit to see a HIV specialist. I was told the next day that if I hadn’t gone in then I would have been diagnosed with AIDS by December 1 that year. I was prescribed medications. I felt scared, but I started taking them regularly.
One of the main challenges since then has been to keep off the drugs, as it always brought back the memories of when I was diagnosed. With me, every time I took drugs, it took me out of a positive frame of mind and back into a negative one.
I have also linked up to number of services after I was diagnosed with HIV.
When work had dismissed me, I began attending a support group at Twenty10 youth service and will continue to do so until I turn 26.
Appointments with a doctor and psychologist at the Albion St Centre also helped me.
I signed up with Bobby Goldsmith Foundation (BGF) in early 2013 and they have been a great deal of help since. Staying on my medications has been easier than it was before. They helped me with their outreach workers and my NILS Loan. I also completed a self-management course via the BGF, as well as a health and nutrition cooking course.
And lastly, John Hunter Hospital. They continue to help with checking on my viral load and CD4 counts each time I visit my family every six months.
I owe so much to each and every one of these organisations for helping me get my life back on track.
My aims for the future are to help combat and eliminate the challenges and stigma I have faced, to keep up with what I’m doing in my own life, and if I can, to help others by telling them that they’re not alone.
I have also decided to go ahead and get a diploma of business and then study hard for a law degree. I hope to one day open my own business and help others to fight back and not get walked over.
Since I began going to John Hunter Hospital regularly, I’ve been undetectable. I have been able to live a normal life, and I enjoy bike riding to keep me healthy.
I must admit, though: every day I am reminded of my past challenges and how far I have come. And for that I am grateful.
*The author’s name has been changed
For more information on the Bobby Goldsmith Foundation, visit www.bgf.org.au or call (02) 9283 8666
**This article was first published in the December edition of the Star Observer, which is available now. To obtain a copy, click here to find out where you can grab one in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide, Canberra and select regional/coastal areas.
Read the December edition of the Star Observer in digital format: