Hello, my name is Danny Steadman and I’m a 30 year old gay man living in Wolverhampton. I was diagnosed HIV+ on 4th June 2014. Phew, that’s the hard bit done!
I live with my fiancé of six years, Adam, who has been my rock since diagnosis, and before that to be honest. We were originally best friends and have known each other since 2003, we then started our relationship in 2008.
We’ve been through many ups and downs since the start, but have come through them all a stronger, better and more loving couple. We have dealt with the passing of Adam’s mother, making him an orphan, the passing of his Nan and his gran, leaving him no full-blood connections. We have both had a battle with depression along with many other things that life throws at you.
We are both currently working after a two year stint of unemployment which has helped hugely in overcoming the worst of our depression. During the unemployed time our relationship was really strained. Things have been looking up for us, we have set a date to get married – 4th July 2015 – work has been going well, more so with Adam, he’s had two promotions within 12 months and is now a project manager for the biggest project the organisation has ever undertaken. Then the 4th June 2014 changed everything.
After months of being unwell (getting ear infections, stomach bugs, insomnia, night sweats, constant pain in my back, legs, arms and chest, depression and a few other illnesses) I had been seeing the doctor on a monthly basis. I kept being prescribed ever increasing anti-depressants, sleeping tablets and antibiotics and was told to take these and return in a month. After six months of this I broke down at the doctors and demanded something be done as I felt terrible and did not know how much longer I could cope being this way. I’d taken roughly two and a half months off work since January 2014 and I was making regular mistakes due the lack of sleep, and my deteriorating concentration.
I asked for blood tests to be taken as I knew I was not right, which my doctor agreed to, stating I may have an issue with my thyroid gland. The blood tests were taken and I returned on 3rd June 2014 to find that I had ‘abnormal’ blood results. I was examined for the first time by my doctor who checked all of my glands, even my groin, then her face dropped. She said “do you mind waiting here whilst I get my colleague to take a look at you?” What choice did I have? I waited, lying down on the bed thinking the worst, minutes later another doctor came in and he performed the same examination. They both had worried faces, discussed my symptoms, then another GP came on in.
At this stage I was crapping it. Then the questions started; “Have you had unprotected sex recently? Have you ever had unprotected sex with anyone from outside the UK? Have you visited anywhere exotic like Africa recently?” Oh My God. I knew what they were getting at straight away. One of the male doctors then asked “Have you been in contact with anyone that has TB?” like I’d know, come on. They then had a little ‘pow wow’ and told me that it was either Cancer, hepatitis or HIV. I was then told not to worry “as that will make it worse’. They booked me an ‘emergency haematology appointment’ which was for two weeks down the line – Friday 13th June – how funny!
I left the doctors surgery in a daze and phoned Adam straight away. I tried to tell him what had gone on through tears and panicked breathing and he left work to meet me at home. After I had explained the doctors to Adam, he went onto the THT website and looked at possible symptoms for HIV, I had 8/10 of them. We went to THT Wolverhampton the next day and had a finger prick test. Adam’s came back negative, mine was reactive.
We left THT after a lengthy chat and went home. I was distraught, scared, felt dirty and a lot of other emotions. How could this have happened? Does Adam think I’ve cheated on him? Are we going to split up? The endless list of possibilities sent my mind on a downward spiral which I am still trying to recover from now.
The next morning I had a phone call from the GUM at the hospital and thus began the longest, scariest day of my life. 15 vials of blood were taken, x-rays, CT scan, I felt violated and dirty. Eight hours later I finally got to go home, to cry in private with my fiancé. Looks like I’ve been HIV-Positive for six or seven years.
It’s now been six weeks since diagnosis and I have been so up and down it is scary. Just when I think I am alright with the virus, I unravel and I’m back to square one. I’ve had to take leave from work as I just can’t cope. I’ve told my mother and my two brothers, and two close friends. Their support has been amazing, just like the support from www.myhiv.org.uk – the forum I joined the day I was diagnosed.
Last Friday I took the first step into my new life, I attended the beyondpositive Positive Pub Crawl in Birmingham.
I met 15-20 other people with HIV and was enveloped in love and support. I was worried about going out in Birmingham, I used to work on the scene and know a lot of people that way. My fears turned out to be justified as I bumped into two ‘old friends’ who quizzed me on why I was out in Birmingham after so long. I lied, and I don’t think they brought it. They saw who I was with, 20 people, most in red, talking openly about HIV…shit.
I could have left then and there, I fought so hard not to break down and run away. The support from Adam and the group was intense, they all said that ‘they’ are not part of my life now, and ‘they’ did not know for sure that I had HIV. I bet ‘they’ still gossip about me though.
I guess what I’ve tried to do here is squeeze down 5 weeks of intensity, depression, anxiety, crying, laughing, pain, anger, fear and dread. There’s a whole lot of other emotions I’ve left out as the list is just too long to mention them all. I felt like the light in my life was extinguished, my life was over, what’s the point in life now?
Because life is worth living. People love me and I love them. The people on www.myhiv.org.uk with their constant support, love, knowledge and compassion. My fiancé, Adam, who will be my husband in under a year. My family, my friends, old and new. The fact that I will not be beaten by this thing. I won’t let it control me, I’ve never suffered fools so why would I start now and and run away from this?
They are my reasons for not giving up. The threat on my life has truly made me want to live to the full, and that’s what I am going to do. My mental state has deteriorated, the same as my health. I was diagnosed with late stage HIV, if it had been left for another year or two, I wouldn’t have been around for the diagnosis.
My next step is the beyondpositive Positive Pub Crawl in October, followed by the ‘Newly Diagnosed Weekend’ in November. It’s a long road I have to walk, but I’m not alone. The support I have received from everyone I have told has been so profound and loving that I will never be able to say thank you enough.
The light still shines, it gets brighter every day. I try my best, then I try harder. I will beat this.
Thank you for taking the time to read my story, if you are interested in reading it in more detail my blog is http://dathomirdan.wordpress.com
It’s not the end, just a new beginning.