I’m a 31 year old single gay male from Aberdeen and found out I was HIV+ on Friday 18 October. 2013. I feel like I have just stood up at an AA meeting but I’m glad to get that out of the way. I won’t share my name or photo quite yet but I promise I will do so further down the line.
I had a general sexual health check up at the ‘City Clinic’ on October 16 as it had been almost a year since my last one. I know it should be every six or even three months but time just seemed to run away with itself. I had attended with one of my best friends and got tested for all the usual stuff.
I had a long weekend in London planned with two friends from the 18th to the 21st which included the friend who had also been at the clinic. While sneaking a wee spray of Bleu de Chanel EDT in the duty free shop at Aberdeen Airport my mobile rang and showed ‘No Caller ID’ which I thought was odd as usually it would show ‘Unknown’ if the caller had withheld their number. For some unknown reason I answered, which I never do if the number isn’t in my contacts.
The call was from a nurse at the clinic who asked me to confirm my date of birth and then asked if I could come and see her that afternoon in order to run another test. I told her that I couldn’t as I was about to fly and wouldn’t be home until Monday evening. She then informed me that my HIV result had come back positive.
She asked me how I felt and whether the result surprised me. I wasn’t quite sure how to answer this as I guess I was partially in shock, it was 8am, had been up since 6.30am and had only had an hour of sleep the night before!
An appointment was arranged for the afternoon of the 22nd and she gave me her phone number in case I wanted to chat although I completely forgot it as I was in a bit of a daze.
My friends were standing nearby so they worked out from my responses that the call was from the clinic so they asked me what I had caught. I just blurted out that I was HIV-positive and we all descended into a deep silence. We walked to the bar, as planned, to get breakfast and we all stood rather stunned in the queue. I asked them to place my order while I took a seat as I needed a minute to digest the news. I popped into WHSmith to buy water and a paper for the flight and even managed some banter with the assistant at the till. I then found a table and waited for my friends to return. Glancing over I could see that they were discussing my bombshell in the queue which is quite understandable; I would too if in their position.
When my friends returned I asked what they had ordered and we entered into a bizarre exchange about poached eggs! Having exhausted all discussion about poached eggs (comparisons with fried eggs, runny yolks, ways of poaching etc) I just asked, “So, are we not going to talk about the elephant in the room?” My friends let out sighs of relief and explained that they didn’t want to bring it up and asked how I was. I said I was fine and then apologised for disrupting the start of their weekend away and promised not to spoil the rest of it. Why on earth was I thinking of them before me?
I explained that I was due back on the 22nd and my friend who had been to the clinic with me previously asked if I wanted him to come with me. I gladly accepted his kind offer and then explained that I might be a bit distant, grumpy or upset over the weekend and may need to withdraw from our planned activities. They said this was fine and we all agreed that my going to London with them was actually a good thing as it meant I had company for four days.
I managed to survive the weekend very well. (I have yet to shed a single tear which I am finding odd!) I was a little distant at times during the Friday afternoon which we spent shopping but perked up in the evening for seeing Wicked followed by dinner and drinks. I coped well all day Saturday as we were busy with lunch, a matinee performance of Billy Elliot and dinner and clubbing at night. I managed to dance the night away with my friends without the diagnosis creeping into my thoughts too much.
Sunday again wasn’t filled with worry; instead with lunch on the South Bank, a trip on the London Eye and another night out. I was so lucky to be with friends and have things to do so that my mind didn’t dwell on the news I had received. Lots of double gins were consumed, banter was exchanged and we danced our asses off to loads of retro 70s and 80s stuff. During the evening I asked one of my friends for a hug which was supplied without a moment’s hesitation. It felt so reassuring to know that I had amazing people with me who I knew would support me in whatever happens with this condition.
I returned to Aberdeen on the evening of the 21st and my friend offered to let me stay at his flat so that I didn’t have to spend the evening alone and to make sure that I went with him to the clinic the next day. I spent the evening online researching the condition using reputable sites and personal blogs so that I had an idea what to expect at my appointment and the way forward.
At 1.30pm on the 22nd I attended the clinic for my appointment, with my friend coming along to support me. There I met a lovely nurse called Shona who explained the result and the follow up test which she said was unlikely to change the result. On asking me what I knew about HIV she was surprised about my knowledge of HAART drugs, viral loads, CD4 counts etc. I told her that I had been doing some reading as I believe that ‘knowledge is power’ during this journey that I will face. She then took contact details of previous sexual partners between my negative and positive tests. As this was a period of almost a year I could not provide all the details and said I would collate them that evening. She then sent me to have more blood taken for my viral load and CD4 levels to determine my baseline. We had agreed to get everything done in one appointment rather than drag it out over several and she regularly reassured me that I was doing well under the circumstances.
I then went to see the doctor, another lovely lady called Dani. She asked me about any other medical conditions I suffered from, medication I took, alcohol consumption and drug use before doing a physical examination. She said everything was fine which was a great relief although my blood pressure was a bit high which was to be expected due to the heightened anxiety of such an appointment.
I then returned to see Shona who asked me whether I had any further questions and warned me against telling too many people at this stage as Aberdeen, despite being a city of nearly 250,000 people, can actually be like a small village when it comes to gossip, especially in the gay communtity. She said she’d call me in three days to see how I was doing and gave me various leaflets to take home including one for a new health psychology HIV service. I made my first appointment with the service on the 24th which, if I choose to continue, will be the first of eight sessions.
After receiving a much needed and so generously offered hug from Shona (what a perfect person to be doing that job) I made an appointment for 13 days time to receive my viral load and CD4 levels.
That evening was spent reading through the various leaflets provided and compiling a list of names, dates and contact details for anyone I had had sex with over the last year. It wasn’t an easy task but with texts, Grindr and with the help of a friend I managed to piece together nearly all the information. I will forward this to Shona as soon as possible and will now have to patiently await my next results in almost two weeks time.
I still haven’t cried, become upset, angry or even particularly pessimistic - which is strange. I am not feeling particularly worried either which I am glad about because I think that worry is actually the worst emotion there is as it serves no useful point! I know the treatment and support is there so will try to carry on in a positive (sorry for the pun) fashion.
To be continued . . .
About the author: Recently diagnosed (18/10/13) Scottish guy with HIV from Aberdeen. Follow his blog scotspozlad.wordpress.com here or on twitter @Scotspozlad here.
This article previously appeared on scotspozlad’s own blog here.