Effective Treatment African runs live storytelling programmes across South Africa to help to educate and end HIV stigma. Here is a diagnosis story from Niles one of the core members of the group.
My day of Diagnosis by Niles
This day was 6th Match 2000 it is engraved on my mind with total clarity. Time does heal the emotion but does not erase the memory. We are very comfortable in the UK with having regular Sexual health check ups. It had been a while since I had been and they had been running a campaign to encourage people to go along to the local Hospital to be screened.
I decided to go along and was not worried at all about having my check ups. While I was there the nurse asked me if I would like to get an HIV test. I didn’t see any reason why not. I certainly wasn’t worried about it. I was not promiscuous and my relationships had been long ones and even If I had be promiscuous it really shouldn’t effect a judgement on that person. After all knowing that your sexual health gives you power to maintain good health.
The following day I had been shopping with my Mum and asked her to drive by the clinic on the way back to pop in to get my results. I walked in and was greeted by a very friendly receptionist and she even asked me If I would like a cup of tea. I thought that was odd and declined as I thought I would only be a few minutes. Or so I thought. The doctor arrived with my file and asked me to come in.
He wasted no time in giving me my result. his exact words, which I hear as clear as if it was yesterday, “You have tested positive for the antibody of HIV”. I had no idea what he meant by that so I asked only then did he say I was HIV Positive. I felt a rush of adrenaline and my mind went into a spin. He then continued to give me all the information about blood results and the options that were available to me. I have no recollection, even to this day what he said. We agreed that I would make another appointment. He took blood to confirm the test and also to find out was my Blood results were and how far the disease had progressed.
I left the building and asked my Mum to go home as I needed to go back into town and while she seemed very concerned, almost if she knew, she went home leaving me alone.
I took a walk in the park taking my virus with me. A million thoughts ran through my mind. How had I got it? Who had given this to me? what had I done to get this? and ultimately am I going to die a horrible death?. Treatment was new in those days though there were options. This completely escaped my thought process. The initial thought was how am I going to hide this. I felt it was tattooed on my forehead and everyone was going to know. I felt such a huge sense of guilt and shame on this day. I felt guilty that I was going to burden my family. My mother had already lost a child of 2 years old with leukemia and now i’m going to bring them another blood born disease to our family.
What was this virus doing to my body and how far had it gone already. Then it struck me, had I passed this on to my partner. Had I had this so many years that even my daughter could have been infected? Luckily this was not the case. She is 25 years old now.
What is interesting was even at this point of diagnosis my only concern was that of what others were going to think, Stigma was affecting me so intensely on this day. Why was I so bothered about others when the focus should have been on myself.
Many of the questions I needed answers to were never to be answered even today. I never did find out how I caught the virus and after 18 years I don’t care anymore. Only after years did I put those questions away and realised I had to look forward to how my journey with HIV was going to lead. Its been a journey but I wouldn’t change a part of it. It’s become a large part of my life and the person I am today.