Derren’s Story

Where do I start… Let’s start with 2016!

Life was bobbing along nicely, I’d met a guy who I’d fallen for quite quickly and it had prompted me to get tested.

I was HIV negative in September 2015 was next tested the following May.

On the 16th June 2016, I recieved a call at work with a withheld number. Knowing my results were in that day I stared at my phone and let the call end. After a few deep breaths, I called the clinic back, usually for a diagnosis nurses are hesitant to tell you over the phone, however I was insistent I be told.

Standing next to a busy road it was if the cars that were going by were silent. All I heard was the nurse say those 3 letters ‘HIV’. I ended the call and called my mum who was my absolute rock, and for my sake, my mum proclaimed it was a dud result and that I’ll do another test and it be negative…For all the hope in the world that wasn’t to be the case.

So there I am in the clinic with my twin brother and mum. The nurse was absolutely brilliant in dealing with me. I felt like I had been hit by a high speed bullet train whilst visions of HIV/AIDS 30 years ago running through my mind. At this point I was completely unaware of the marvel medication is in today’s age, and therefore was an absolute mess.

The following day I had to have some more bloods taken; geneology tests etc, and it was then that I began to understand the adherence to treatment for HIV, and that it should allow for me to lead a relatively healthy normal life.

I began to minutely accept my diagnosis.At the time I was living with someone who I looked up to a big sister, however, less than 24 hours after sharing my diagnosis with her she kicked me out and made me homeless due to my status.

Not even 48 hours had passed and I’d already been a subject to acute stigma for being HIV positive. Was this my life now?

Because of her I then made a decision to disclose my status to my close friends and family as I needed to know who was behind me for support and who wasn’t. I’m happy to say I never had any other friends or family members give me an adverse reaction to my news.

I began my ART in August 2016, I needed time to understand once I started therapy that there was no going back, so I had to ensure my frame of mind was prepared for my adherence schedule. Plus at that time, sex and intimacy was a big no no for me, that it took a while to get my mojo back so to speak. It did come back and I can now enjoy intimacy as I used to prior my diagnosis.

I became undetectable in October 2016, my mum was the first person I told. I’ll never forget how her eyes lit and welled up in relief and happiness for me.

Sadly that was short lived as in December 2016, I suddenly lost my mum who was only 44.

She was my rock in my diagnosis. Her death was a humongous blow, especially given the 6/7 months I endured prior. However, it gives me peace of mind she left this world knowing I had the medication, resources and support to keep me going and to live a normal life.

Mum’s death in a way helped me get over my disgnosis, I recently watched the TV program ‘Pose’, (brilliant show by the way), with the lead character suffering a diagnosis of HIV as well as the loss of her mother. My life was imitated by the art I was watching. The lead character went on to show resilience and strength.

3 years later I can say I have acquired resilience and strength, and experienced happiness in a relationship with a guy who is negative. We are no longer together, however he was my 1st relationship after my diagnosis, and prior to this, I thought I’d never be loved or be found attractive again. I kind of thought I had a neon sign above my head reading HIV. My ex partner saw beyond any of that and took me for who I am and not for what I have.

I’ve had some issues with my employer regarding my status but that is more to do with ensuring I’m supported correctly at work with reasonable adjustments put in place if needed.

The guy who I was seeing when I was tested stood by me as a friend, and we ended up sharing a flat for 2 years.

I now look at him as a brother as he could have simply walked away from the situation, but chose to stick by me.

HIV isn’t a death sentence, for me it’s a little quirk in my character, which doesn’t define me for who I am, no more than being gay, or mixed race does….or for being one half of a twin!

Dating can be sometimes tricky but I’ve learned that if a guy isn’t sure or isn’t comfortable with my status then he is not the guy for me.

I have chosen to share my story with ‘Travel For One, because people living with HIV should feel encouraged to talk about their experiences and not feel it’s a dirty secret. One day I hope to be able set up workshops in schools/ colleges to educate the young minds with the promise of erradicating HIV stigma in the future.

I can today say I’m proud of my undetectable status and hope anyone who reads this can find the courage to speak up and let their voice and story be heard and told too, people should not have to suffer in silence, let’s talk…

Derren

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