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Danny

Danny

Danny talks about his experiences of living with HIV for over 30 years, how it is affecting him as he gets older and why it's important to challenge the stigma.

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Transcript:

Well I was one of the first people to be diagnosed with HIV in the UK.

I think it's 29 years this year, that I’ve been living with HIV.

Initially I was put on sorts of medications that had really horrific and horrendous side effects.

I decided very early on that I didn’t want treatment unless it gave me quality of life. So for many years I lived treatment-free. But I have now found a combination of therapy that works very well for me.

I’ve continued to work as trainer and as a consultant and coach throughout all of my career.

HIV raises all the taboos in our culture, which makes it difficult for people to talk about it.

It raises death and dying and sex and addiction, disability, illness, so it can be very hard for people to hear the information and then to respond in an understanding and empathic way.

I’ve always been very proactive and confident about being a gay man.

I came out at an early age and I’ve been involved in gay politics for a very long time and when I was diagnosed with HIV I decided very quickly that I wasn’t going to hide that.

So I would never advise people to be open about their status or advocate that they have to go and do that or they have to become a positive role model.

They have to do what’s right for them. If they were going to do it I’d advise them to have as much support around them as possible.

I think the other biggest challenge for me around getting older is the health conditions that I’m getting at a relatively early age.

So I have osteoporosis which means I can break bones very easily I also have a physical disability, I have a spinal condition.

People find it hard to be around ill health, they don’t know what to talk about, they don’t know how to be around you.

So if I’m not careful I can end up spending days and days and days on my own and never seeing anybody.

Throughout the epidemic from the beginnings of the epidemic I watched all my friends die. I watched two partners die. I watched all my friends die. I adopted two children with HIV, I saw one of them die and they’ve all gone and I’m still here.

So I’ve sort of got a bit of a survival guilt or a bit of survival confusion if you like, cos I’m not quite sure how that’s happened or why I’m still here.

In some respects HIV was potentially one of the best things that have ever happened to me. Because I have had an amazing life and I’ve done more had more and seen more and experienced more than most people can ever imagine.

Because HIV has driven me to achieve and it's driven me to do the things I really want to do. It takes a lot of energy and a lot commitment and in order to sustain that commitment I need to have organisations like Terrence Higgins Trust who are there to support me whether it's on the end of the phone or going to a support group whatever it is.

I know in my work I’ve made a difference to people and that’s hugely important to my self-esteem. Because the more we do and the more visible we are the more we will challenge the stereotypes and the more we will challenge stigma.

And to me that’s the most important thing to HIV.

I think gay men have responded incredibly to HIV.

We are highly stigmatised group of people and we are still living with very high levels of stigma and homophobia. And yet we have responded to HIV with amazing courage I think, and intelligence.

The Terrence Higgins Trust wouldn’t be here unless it for gay men. It was gay men set up the Terrence Higgins Trust. It wouldn’t be here otherwise. I feel like I’m able to contribute and help shape those services.

So that’s been very important to me and I think that would be important to anybody living with HIV who wanted to do voluntary work.

Overall its been a very positive experience and it’s been very rewarding for me to do that.

 

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