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Sep27

I'm a farm boy from New Zealand, Part Two

Saturday, 27 September 2014 Written by // Guest Authors - Revolving Door Categories // Gay Men, Newly Diagnosed, International , Living with HIV, Population Specific , Revolving Door, Guest Authors

Guesting Adam Love continues the tale of how he moved from New Zealand to Australia - and found out he was HIV-positive

I'm a farm boy from New Zealand, Part Two

I moved alone from Auckland, New Zealand to Sydney Australia in 1987. I knew very little about Australia at the time and choose Sydney by laying out a map in front of me closing my eyes, and seeing where the pen landed.

A couple of months after arriving I began a job at a bookstore that specialized in architecture and building. I worked at this store for approximately twenty years and traveled the world while working there.

Six months after arriving in Sydney I met a man who became my partner of sixteen years. The first three years of that relationship were monogamous, then we had an open relationship.

HIV was very prominent in the gay press and on Australian Television at that time. A very controversial add on television titled the Grim Reaper set out to scare people into using condoms, and it worked. The only meds available to combat HIV once you had it were AZT which itself killed more people than it saved. In the 80's and 90's contracting HIV for most was a death sentence.

I recall losing many friends during the 80's and early 90's to HIV, and  always had safe sex except with my partner. Sometime during the early 90's I visited my GP for some reason, and as I lived in Darlinghurst, the capital of gay in Sydney, she wanted to do an HIV test. I had never had one.  I didn't consider myself to be at risk, and I agreed. A week later the results came back positive. I was absolutely blown away, I couldn't believe it. I felt numb and disorientated. The test was repeated and another week of waiting began. Three days later my GP called and said that all tes's were coming back positive. The way the test was conducted had been changed and had been found to be faulty. The second test came back negative and so did a third.

I never forgot the scare of that false positive test and how I felt when I thought I had contracted HIV. Living in Darlinghurst it was impossible to ignore the number of men who vanished off the scene and the sick walking around waiting to die. I lived just up the road from St. Vincent's Hospice which was set up by Nuns to nurse HIV. I walked past it every day to work, and visited a few friends in the hospice. It was very sad to see so many young men with no hope of recovery.

Eventually my first relationship came to an end and I met my second partner who I was with for five years. He wanted to have a monogamous relationship, and made it quite clear that breaking this rule would be a deal-breaker. I was happy to go along with this. I had an HIV test before we dispensed with condoms and I was negative.

In 2006 and after this relationship ended I began to feel unwell, and was losing weight. I visited my GP and had an HIV test. A week later a letter arrived asking me to visit urgently. On my way to work that day I stopped by my GP and it was confirmed I was HIV-positive. I did not make it to work that day, but instead went to a corner store, bought a packet of cigarettes, sat in the gutter and lit up. I had been smoking socially while I was with my partner but had given up. Then I went back to my hotel room to contemplate what to do next.

I phoned ACON. 'Aids Council of NSW' and made an appointment to see a counselor. I also made an appointment with my original GP in Darlingurst as I knew they had much more experience dealing with HIV positive people than my new GP.

The next day I went to work. I cancelled the appointment with ACON because I had decided I would be ok and did not need to see a counselor. The counselor called me back and tried to persuade me to come in and see her, I resisted.

A week later walking to walk I was thinking about how I would tell my mother I was positive, upset and I broke down on the street and could not stop crying for hours. I called work sobbing and told them I would not be in that day. I cried all the way back to the hotel where I called the ACON councilor and said I needed help, beginning a series of appointments over the next few weeks which were a fantastic help to me.

At the time I was diagnosed with HIV my CD4 count was 75; a week later it was 7. I was in a very bad way. I was put on meds immediately, a combination of three pills. The side effects were horrific. The dreams they caused were like nothing I had ever experienced before. I would try to force myself to wake up, only to find I was still in the dream. They were extremely vivid, scary dreams too.

I tried to keep working but it became clear very soon I was too ill and could not continue, which also meant I could no longer pay the rent at the hotel where I was staying. I was extremely stressed and scared.

I called my first partner who I had been with for sixteen years, and moved in with him and his current partner. By this timer my sister had informed my mother what was going on and she called me suggesting I move back to New Zealand.

 While I was living with my ex partner I found a web site with a chat room for HIV positive people. This was of enormous help. I also read as much as I could on the net about HIV. I still use the chat room which is an incredibly supportive place for positive people and their friends.

I moved back to New Zealand. By this time I had stopped taking the meds as they were knocking me down so much. My mother had found a GP who specialized in HIV and he got me in to the Infectious Diseases department of Auckland Hospital which put me back on the same meds.

It took a good year to get used to the HIV medications. My CD4 has never fully recovered. Due to my CD$ remaining between 150 and 180 I suffer chronic fatigue and am unable to work.

I lived with my mother for eight months, before moving in with my current partner, I never thought I would have a relationship again when I discovered I was poz.

To this day my ex partner who cheated on our relationship and gave me HIV denies he has it, even though his mother has confirmed it. 

About the author: My name is Adam Love. I am 43. Growing up between a sheep farm and a small New Zealand town before moving to Auckland. I moved to  Sydney Australia when I was 18 where I continued my career path in the book industry. From Sydney I travelled to 39 Countries over a twenty year period. I moved back to Auckland 2008 when I found out I had contracted HIV and was very ill at the time. Since then I have had tongue cancer, and continue to struggle with eating, depression and a compromised immune system due to HIV.