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Interview 27

Age at interview: 30
Age at diagnosis: 27
Brief Outline: He currently has a viral load of about 160,000 and 360 CD cells, and has not yet begun anti-HIV medication. His diagnosis has been a catalyst in facing up to many issues in his life. (Video and audio clips read by an actor.)
Background: A 30 year old gay male medical doctor who grew up in a town outside London. He was diagnosed in 2002 after unprotected sex at a sauna.

More about me...

Age at interview' 30

Age at diagnosis' 27

Sex' Male

Background' A 30 year old gay male medical doctor who grew up in a town outside London. He was diagnosed in 2002 after unprotected sex.

Outline' A 30 year old gay male medical doctor who grew up in a town outside London. He was diagnosed in 2002 after unprotected sex at a sauna, at a time when he felt like an 'automaton' and was not really taking good care of himself.

He currently has a viral load of about 160,000 and 360 CD4 cells, and has not yet begun anti-HIV medication, although he expects he will need to start in 1 to 2 years. When he was first diagnosed with HIV, he rationalised that he was better off than those with HIV in less developed countries. Nevertheless, he now understands that he side-stepped his feelings which came to the surface in the second year after his diagnosis. His diagnosis has been a catalyst in facing up to many issues (including coming out, sense of self worth, family issues) that he had up until then postponed. Friends, counselling and HIV support groups helped him cope.

(Video and audio clips read by an actor.)

 

Felt that a friendship that suffered because of his HIV was trouble anyway. (Read by an actor.)

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Felt that a friendship that suffered because of his HIV was trouble anyway. (Read by an actor.)

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I mean I think one friendship that suffered was probably ill-fated anyway. But one non-sexual friendship suffered. This particular friendship suffered because my friend was very distressed that I had left it a month to tell him. That I hadn't shared. Which I can understand actually. That I hadn't shared my initial shock, horror, numbness, whatever, with him. And hadn't felt that I'd been able to pick up the phone. Maybe that he hadn't been the one that I'd told on that first day. And got to come down with me. And meet me. And take me out afterwards and whatever. So… But That actually was very difficult to… The, the sort of… I suppose, in a way… I mean retrospectively the acknowledgement that that friendship may not have been all I thought it was anyway.

 

Talks about how counselling allowed him to sort out feelings he previously avoided. (Read by an...

Talks about how counselling allowed him to sort out feelings he previously avoided. (Read by an...

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I mean I think for the first time in certainly a year, and probably a little bit… possibly a little bit longer, possibly, I really viscerally felt… sad at my diagnosis. And then got over that. I let out a lot of feelings, I suppose, that I hadn't let out. And that enabled me to move on a little bit. You know, to, to acceptance. 

So I think I'd got stuck in this sort of knuckle down, all hands on deck, sort of thing. And then counselling helped me to sort out priorities in terms of what I wanted at that moment. What I wanted out of life in the future, what I want out of life in general… And the thing that changed it was this thing. But that was… That, and the sort of feeling issue and the direction. 

And the sort of coming out issues from childhood. And the sort of self-confidence issues from growing up. And sort of, sort of repressed anger.

 

It took him a year until he was able to express his real feelings about being diagnosed HIV...

It took him a year until he was able to express his real feelings about being diagnosed HIV...

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The first response wasn't to go, 'Oh my God, argh!' It was to say, 'Well, at least I'm a, a white gay middle class man in a developed country.' You know, that really was… I think the second year of my diagnosis was really then thinking about feelings. And I think a pattern in life had been to over-rationalise… As a, as a sort of coping mechanism, maybe. 

And also just because, that's the way I am. But the second year was much more about connecting with my feelings about me, anyway generally. And my feelings about life.

But also about HIV diagnosis. And sort of actually… Rather than just saying, 'Oh well, shit happens. And it's… You know, it is shit, but I'll get this, this, this and this out of it.' And I've rationalised, rationalised, rationalised. Just thinking… Actually, for the first time since telling a couple of very close friends, sort of getting, yes, a bit upset about it. And a bit angry about it.

 

Support groups are not for everyone all the time. (Read by an actor.)

Support groups are not for everyone all the time. (Read by an actor.)

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But actually, to be perfectly frank, it wouldn't be everyone's cup of tea. And I know from speaking to a couple of people who'd been and not gone back that it isn't everyone's cup of tea. Because it's sometimes so fucking miserable. But I mean actually what that group did to me was it made me think thank fuck. You know, there's so many people worse off than me. 

It wasn't the place to be when I was needing to sit down with somebody one-on-one. Because I didn't feel, at the time, I couldn't get a word in edgeways. And I was a new member of a group. There were some quite opinionated people there. But actually for various reasons I just think… I'm not sure whether it's the sort of… I think it's the sort of place to go when you're sort of feeling very neutral… 

Because if you're feeling too sad it can drag you down. Unless you really have to get something off you chest. And if you're feeling too happy, why put yourself through the misery of people sort of saying, 'Oh God, I can't believe…' You know, because you… It can be quite demanding sometimes. When people use a forum that, you know… to really vent their personal, personal, personal grief, angst. And that's what it's… of course what it's there for.

 

He thinks he became infected with HIV at a time when he was having emotional problems. (Read by...

He thinks he became infected with HIV at a time when he was having emotional problems. (Read by...

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I mean when you think retrospectively, well I thought I was a balanced gay guy. But there I was being fucked without a condom in a sauna by somebody I'd just met. And, well, it's hardly balanced… You know, it's hardly the sort of thing that I would… if you'd asked me, I would have, have… have said that I did. And yet there I was doing it. 

So there was something going wrong in life in general. And that was to do with, I think all these sort of different things that I've been able to… sort out, to some extent. Or acknowledge, simply acknowledge… The mind boggles as to what was going through my mind at that particular instance… 

Heaven knows what was going through my mind at that particular point. That I assume I acquired HIV. But I mean in general terms, just not looking after myself. Working too hard. You know, I think having become a little bit of an automaton.

 

Says that reactions to being HIV positive are all different and follow no set course. (Read by an...

Says that reactions to being HIV positive are all different and follow no set course. (Read by an...

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Everyone's different. Don't expect to find the answer on this website. But it might give you some clues. I think that'd be my advice. Because I mean I think I… I mean certainly don't expect that you will feel sad for 2 weeks, then… throw yourself into work. And then come to terms with things. And then sort out your shit. And then be back on your feet again. 

Whatever… I mean don't think that your experience is going to be the same as that person's, that person's, that person's… The only bad reaction would be to say, 'Oh my God.' And throw yourself off a bridge. Because then you've got no chance of doing anything after that. You know, that's the only bad reaction, in a way. Which some people do. But just keep with it. And… it won't be the best thing that's ever happened to you. But it could have some surprising results… definitely.

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