I was diagnosed back in August 2009; we are coming up to my seventh anniversary. Each year it gets me thinking about the things that went on at that time and I know I have spoken about some of these in the past. Now for those of you who have read my previous pieces and keep up with my musings will know of the friend I mention who asked “So Christian, do you need your own cutlery drawer now?”
Well not long after my last article went live, I caught up with her at a mutual friend’s birthday. Having seen me at my worst, she was now seeing me at my best and was so happy and proud at how far I had come. She had spent the last year travelling across South East Asia and Australia, in fact the last time I believe I saw her was at a boozy bottomless brunch a few years previous for the same said friend’s birthday – either way, it had been a while!
She had asked me if she could write a piece for PositiveLite.com, she wanted to give her perception of what she thought of HIV prior to my diagnosis and how something bad had made something good happen – Katie’s stigma towards HIV took a much needed battering and her perception changed, dramatically. Here’s her story:
To my utter embarrassment, yes, I did ask the ‘cutlery question!’. When I first met Christian, I was 19 years old. I grew up in a deprived area in North London and would confidently describe myself as a very street smart young woman. But was I? Did I really know much about the ways a person can keep themselves safe and protected if I honestly thought I could contract HIV from a fork? Probably not!
" I even went to the extent of going to my doctor and asking whether I could “catch HIV from living with him”. My doctor must have known that I had no idea what I was talking about and had no knowledge on the subject and he safely assured me that I was free to breath the same air."
It was summer and friends and I had just signed a contract to move into a flat (with Christian). It was an exciting time. When would our first party be? How would we do the food shopping? Which room would I have? That’s when Christian called a meeting. He said that he needed to discuss something with us face to face which lead to him telling us that he was HIV-positive. It was the last thing I ever expected him to say.
Truthfully, I left the flat that day and the first thing I said was “We need to find somewhere else to live, it’s dangerous!”. I cried and had tantrums like I was five years old. I even went to the extent of going to my doctor and asking whether I could “catch HIV from living with him”. My doctor must have known that I had no idea what I was talking about and he assured me that I was free to breath the same air.
Over the year that I lived with Christian, it went from good to bad, to worse, to horrifically off the scale torture. Christian won’t mind me writing this as we have agreed on ‘the truth and nothing but the truth’. His mood swings became more regular and his drinking became obsessive. I realise now that he was trying to hide the pain and the anger of the card he had been dealt.
One night in particular comes to mind. We went out as a group and Christian had left early, in a strop as per usual. By this point it was a normal occurrence. He was starting to shut himself away from the world and there wasn’t much that any of us were doing to help. I don’t think we even knew how - a massive part of the problem. We arrived home to find Christian had locked himself in his room. We called through the door over and over again. No answer!
It was one of those times in your life where you know that you need to step up. Ignoring the situation won’t do this time.
In the end, it took a few of us to break down the door which led to an utter outburst by Christian. He ended up cutting himself and blood was everywhere. It was at that point that I knew something needed to change in him because the caring, kind and thoughtful boy who I had met a year previously had gone and all that was left was this sad soul who was covered in blood, not realizing the seriousness of what was happening.
An ambulance came and the carpets were bleached but there was something dark looming over the flat the next day. Christian soon moved out and this is where his journey truly begins.
The last five paragraphs are merely the beginning of his story. He has shown strength through his perseverance to be the best he can be. His is kind and loyal. He will help you in your hour of need even though you are, at times, unable to help him in his.
Christian has focused on fitness and sport and his body is the healthiest it has ever been. He found his ‘something’ that he needed all along, his focal point to use as a trigger and target to reach and he is consistently bettering himself and challenging himself to do even more and for that I am so proud of him.
Most importantly though, he is educating others - people like me who didn’t have a clue - to inform others that people living with HIV are NOT a threat and that actually they are just like you and me. He is an asset to our community as well as his own and others. It took what happened to make me realize this and I really don’t want that for someone else.
Stigma still needs to be addressed and if my opinion on this all helps, then I have done my job here and I will continue to keep doing so.