This is an excerpt of an article which first appeared in the UK’s qx magazine here.
“I drew a lot of validation from sex. I was frightened of losing the intimacy and affection of other gay men.”
Shortly after my diagnosis, when a friend confided in me that he had Hep C, I did not have the courage to tell him that I had Hep C as well. I was frightened.
I felt touched that he trusted me, yet guilty for not sharing my secret with him. I hated lying and wish I had been able to support him better. I thought that people would gossip about my Hep C. My own fear manifested itself in paranoia. There were no role models in the media for co-infection with HIV and Hep C, which made it harder to be open. I had fought so hard to be an out gay man, and now I was hiding something that was inextricably linked to my sexuality, to my identity and to my core sense of who I am.
I was diagnosed with Hep C a week after my initial HIV diagnosis in 2010. I caught both from the same sexual partner. Each diagnosis was traumatic and came as a massive shock. I still felt numb and confused as a consequence of the HIV diagnosis when I was suddenly informed that I was also Hep C positive. From the beginning I discussed my HIV status broadly in the gay community. I have only rarely experienced HIV stigma. Regarding Hep C, the story is much more nuanced. There is a lack of knowledge and uncertainty. I felt shame on many different levels.
I was not as candid regarding my Hep C status with other gay men and it was a number of years before I felt comfortable discussing this openly beyond my immediate circle of friends. Having been diagnosed at the age of twenty-four was hard. I was petrified I would no longer be perceived as sexually desirable. At this age I drew a lot of validation from sex. I was frightened of losing the intimacy and affection of other gay men.
My HIV was easier to assimilate into my identity than my Hep C. It is a wonderful reflection of how inclusive and empathetic the gay community is that people living with HIV are increasingly accepted. My Hep C left me feeling remote from many of the people around me.
To read the rest of the article go here.