How I discovered I was HIV positive...
For the last three or four years I always seemed to have some sort of illness or thing wrong which seemed to take a long time to clear up.
I kind of knew that something was wrong but as they appeared to be small things, such as a cough that just wouldn't go or spots on my face that seemed to remain, so I didn't really feel that I needed to go to my GP to get anything sorted.
But, after putting up with a cough for six months I decided to visit my GP. After a quick, but very thorough, examination my GP announced that he thought I was HIV positive and that I should arrange to go to the sexual health clinic to have a test.
I remember thanking him for seeing me and for a few moments it didn't really register what he had said. As I left the surgery and started the short 10 minute walk home, the shock of what I had been told began to sink in. As I got nearer home I became more and more upset and on finally reaching home and getting inside, I collapsed on the floor in floods of tears.
Fortunately one of my housemates was home and he realised straight away that something was wrong and after a short time was able to calm me down enough to tell him what my GP had said. At that time I was very angry and frustrated trying to rationalise how I could possibly be HIV positive.
My housemate and I talked over the next couple of days and while at work my mind kept running over the events. How I managed to even function normally I really have no idea as I'm sure I was more than a little distracted. It was during this time, even though I hadn't had any tests done yet, that I began to accept that I may be positive as looking back over the last few years of continual illness of one sort or another it began to make sense.
During this time I felt that I needed to know one way or the other. In mid February 2010 I visited the sexual health clinic and arranged to have an HIV test done. It was two weeks later that I got the results back and they confirmed that I was HIV positive.
I remember my health advisor telling me at the start of the meeting that I was positive. Because of the delay between seeing my GP and getting the test I'd already come to accept that I had HIV and having it confirmed was, in fact, a relief.
We talked for some time and I was given lots of information about the virus and the types of treatments available. I was very surprised to learn that once treatment started improvements to my health might be seen in as little as eight weeks. I had been expecting it to be 6-12 months. By mid March I'd had my first round of tests and by Easter 2010 I'd started my HIV treatment.
Within a few weeks of starting my combination therapy I really noticed the difference. The tickly cough I'd had finally cleared itself up and my appetite came back with a vengeance. I was beginning to feel like my old self again. The only regret I have looking back on things is I wish I had done something about my health earlier instead of suffering and thinking it would sort itself out. It clearly wouldn't have and I would have ended up being a lot worse.
Read Ben's story ››
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Various people talk about their experiences of living with HIV.
CAB - Citizens Advice Bureau
HIV Drug Interactions
George House Trust
Equality and Human Rights Commission
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