I was going to be on national TV and talk about living with HIV and then the “ohmygod” thought because there was a chance that someone I know might see it.
Will from the media team at the Terrence Higgins Trust approached me about doing a brief interview and photoshoot with a national newspaper on a Friday. I was due to go away for the weekend but I decided that I could delay the start of my weekend, travel to London to do the interview and then travel down to Cornwall by train afterwards.
Then Will then got in touch to say the newspaper had to move the shoot to the Saturday but this was no good as the weekend trip away had been booked and paid for by my mum. Will said they were looking for someone to go on to Daybreak which is a national breakfast show.
I said I’d be interested in doing it as long as it provided a positive message. I wasn’t interested in appearing on TV as a victim as I’ve never felt or thought that I am. There’s still too much negativity surrounding HIV and I didn’t want to add to or enable that view. The brief was to talk about living with HIV and I wanted to show that it’s not the end of the world, that it’s a life changing but not life limiting condition and that you can live a normal life.
I didn’t get final confirmation until the day before and all of a sudden it was go home, pack a bag and then get on a train to London. The studio paid for my train fare, a taxi to the hotel, the overnight stay and for a driver to pick me up the next morning to take me to the studio.
It wasn’t until I got to the hotel that I managed to catch my breath and prepare myself for the next day. I sat down, had some food and then the reality of the situation began to hit me. I was going to be on national TV and talk about living with HIV and then the “ohmygod” thought because there was a chance that someone I know might see it.
I exchanged a few texts with friends, I hadn’t told many people as there was a possibility that the slot may have been cancelled at the last minute, should any major new story crop up. I managed to get some sleep and woke up the next day, had a coffee and a shower and got myself ready. I got a call to say the driver was waiting outside and off I went.
I arrived at the studios and was taken straight to hair and makeup. The makeup artist, Melanie, did an amazing job and I hardly recognised myself. There was a lady from the Terrence Higgins Trust who would be sitting next to me on the Daybreak sofa and we had spoken the night before. We had a quick chat while our makeup was being done.
The producer came in and had a quick word with me and assured me that no mention would be made of how I contracted HIV and who was responsible – I had been very clear about that from the outset. Then one of the runners came in and it was time to go…
I was so nervous and everything felt like it was happening in slow motion. The feature started about it being World AIDS Day on Sunday and there was mention of Freddie Mercury and his death from AIDS along with some facts about HIV. I was accompanied to the sofa where I met the presenters and before I knew it, I was being introduced and all I kept saying in my head was “don’t swear, don’t swear, it’s live TV”.
I felt like I stuttered and stumbled my way through it and made a real idiot of myself. Then the question about my ex-partner not informing me of his HIV status prior to our relationship was asked. The presenter went on to say that it was outrageous and I just said that I didn’t want to talk about it and it was still quite upsetting – it was the truth.
The slot only lasted about 5 minutes and I thought that it was a lot of expense to go to for just a short time but it was a relief to me! We were given a bright orange alarm clock as a gift and then a driver arrived and drove me back to the train station. It was now 7:20am and I was starving as I hadn’t eaten and I had a pill to take.
Going home on the train was surreal and when I arrived, I switched on my work laptop and set about working. I had a few emails from colleagues who had seen the slot and obviously didn’t know that I had HIV and they were kind and supportive.
I then decided to make it public on my Facebook account and I chose a bold statement and then put my own words to it and shared it with all my friends. I wasn’t prepared for the overwhelming comments of support, shock and kindness that I received for the rest of the day – I was blown away. Being told I was brave felt a bit strange as I didn’t think it was brave.
I’ve always been an open and honest person and all I wanted to do was talk about it, raise some awareness and then just get on with my life. It got people thinking and they asked questions and that was the point.
Being open and honest about it has been such a relief and it really has set me free. I feel like I’ve saved myself from having the same conversation over and over again…
Becky (@HIVgirlbristol on twitter)