Ken found out he had HIV while caring for his dying mother. He shares the emotional fallout of his diagnosis and how he learnt to look after himself.
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Remember the twin towers that got blown up in New York? I’ve looked at my own health in relation to those twin towers. There was one my mental health and one that was my physical health.
When HIV struck they both went down but when I started taking antiretrovirals one actually came back up – my health - physical health went back up. My mental health much much slower, much much slower.
I think it started to affect me even before I knew I was positive.
Once I’d had the diagnosis I tried to shift the emphasis from my mum to me. I couldn’t do it and so I ignored a lot of it. I ignored some of the effects of it. And I subsequently ended up with what turned out to be some mental health problems.
Really they were part of my own making because I didn’t take it on board I didn’t deal with it. I didn’t face up to it. I just accepted it and said ‘deal with you later – come back later on.’
It was like all the other issues that had occurred. The death of my sister. My mothers diagnosis. Feeling ill. My diagnosis. Being thrown out of our home. All of those sorts of issues.
They all tended to be less important to my mother’s health and that’s why I shoved it back. But the emotional aspects of it hit home about week after my mothers’ death in July 2007. That’s when they really kicked in because all of sudden, it literally was, I woke up in the morning and I thought wow I’ve only got me to be concerned about.
And then things started to sort of shift and locate in front of me and I could actually see priorities in my life that I needed to deal with. The first one was HIV.
Even one year, on 18 months, a year on. I’m not the same person now I was then. I’m very different now. I’m very positive now.
I’ve put lots of plans into operation as far as changing things round in my own life are concerned: changing where I live, changing how I eat.
I have to look at my diet, think of my immune system, care for those things.
I’ve changed loads of factors in my life and I’ve done them independent of other people which I feel really pleased with.
Nothing is impossible. HIV doesn’t stop you living. Antiretroviral therapy helps you live with it.
You know many years ago, many many years ago the threat HIV was like the curse of the Old Testament.
It was like this monster that was going to loom up and wipe everything away in its path.
It actually doesn’t work that way. It really doesn’t. There are barriers to that now. You can actually say: 'whoa, not going to happen to me, I can deal with that'.
It’s made me become more reflective, because it’s the largest issue I’ve had to deal with in my life apart from the deaths of my father and my sister and my mother – which followed in fairly quick succession, and then my diagnosis with HIV.
Because I’ve had no support, no family support to enable me to grab it and deal with it. I’ve had to find things inside of me that I never thought were there. I’ve had to ask myself questions like: 'do you want to go on? Do you want to stop the treatment or do you want to carry on?' - and I’ve never waivered. I just want to carry on?
And I’ve actually enabled myself to develop more in my very very late 50s than I’ve ever done in my life before.
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Danny was one of the first people to get diagnosed with HIV in the UK.
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