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Thursday, 18 September 2014 Categories // Gay Men, Living with HIV, Opinion Pieces, Population Specific , Revolving Door, Guest Authors

The UK’s Alex Sparrowhawk on what five years with HIV means to him. “HIV wasn’t the long term relationship I was looking for in 2009, but I fail to see how it’s been anything other than a successful one.”


Long Term Relationship: strong, deep, or close association/acquaintance between two or more people. This association may be based on inference, love, solidarity, regular business interactions, or some other type of social commitment… 

Last Saturday I was talking to someone who recently received a positive HIV diagnosis. I started to talk about my ‘early days’ and how I coped when I was told about my positive status for the first time. I soon realised it was two months to the day that I would be witnessing the 5th anniversary of my own diagnosis. I started to think about how long it had been and how far along I had come, yet much of the five years since seems to have passed in the blink of an eye. 

Like any relationship there have been plenty of highs and a few lows but on the whole we get on like a house on fire. It can seem stupid to talk about a virus that’s potentially harmful to my body in a positive way, but I owe HIV a lot. Five years ago I had no direction, I was meandering along with no clear goals, in a slump career-wise, not really knowing what I wanted or where I saw my future going.

I was single after a couple of unsuccessful relationships in 2009 that hadn’t got off the ground and I was spending a lot of time out drinking rather than doing something/anything productive (It’s hard to believe but I actually go out a lot less now than I ever have in the past!). Aside from a few visits to the gym I never really thought about my own health: physical, mental or sexual.

HIV was a wake-up call, a red flag and a warning.  It made me assess what I wanted out of life, when in the beginning I wasn’t always ready to believe it would carry on as normal. It pushed me to focus on my career, my health and my relationships with my family, friends and develop an amazing bond with my boyfriend. 

Those initial alarm bells and sirens are long gone, and it’s only very rarely that I get anxious about HIV now, I’ve not heard back from the clinic since my last update so I’m assuming all is well with my liver which is fantastic; looks like a blip down to a hard-core gym session and a night out before both previous tests! 

I can’t change the past and I can’t amend my status. I can look for the positive things to come out of my experiences though, and I guess that’s the message I want to get across to anyone newly diagnosed. Many will say ‘HIV is just a virus’, and they’re right, but it can be hard to live with sometimes and it’s important to acknowledge that too, but the majority of the time it doesn’t change anything, or rather, it doesn’t have to  – but it can and for the better. 

I’m a stronger person because of HIV. I’m a more passionate person because I want to end the fear of the virus. I’m a more determined person because I want to see an end to the ignorance and I’m more focused because there needs to be an end to the stigma. HIV wasn’t the long term relationship I was looking for in 2009, but I fail to see how it’s been anything other than a successful one. 

About the author: “I grew up in the South East of England and after finishing school moved to Lancaster to complete a degree in Philosophy. After graduation I moved to the wonderful city of Manchester and have been here ever since. I was diagnosed HIV Positive in November 2009 and have spent the past five years coming to terms with my status. The virus has made me a stronger person but hasn’t changed who I am and I won’t allow it to define who I want to become. 

I’m a liberal gay man with a ‘leftie’ political outlook. I enjoy socialising with friends, music and film. I’m a strict vegetarian and enjoy keeping fit. 

I support the ideals of the LGBT community, feminism and the animal rights movement. As well as being an advocate for HIV activism I believe in the equality of all people in order that future generations can live in a diverse and sustainable world. 

This article first appeared in Alex’s own blog Alex Sparrowhawk: HIV & Me here.  You can follow Alex on twitter @birdy_tweet.