Three years. 36 months. 156 weeks. 1095 days. 26,280 hours. 1,576,800 minutes. 110,376,000 heartbeats.
Today is the third anniversary of my HIV diagnosis, and no matter how I measure it it feels like a pretty long time.
At 09:30am on Thursday 4th August 2011 I was called into a consultant room at Whittall Street GUM clinic in Birmingham and was told what I was already suspecting – that I was HIV positive. A moment that would completely change my life.
Two weeks earlier I’d been getting ready to go on holiday when a reminder popped up on my iPhone to go to the GUM clinic for a routine screening. I wasn’t really in the mood but I went anyway, and then I thought no more of it.
A week later, sat in the sun on a far away island my phone starts to ring. I recognised the number. I answered. the woman at the end of the phone asked me to confirm my security details – which I did. The was a long pause, a very long pause.
The woman, now with a much shakier voice, told me that one of my tests had come back positive and that I must come and see them at once. When I told her I couldn’t come in as I was thousands of miles away her voice went from shaky to full on tremoring. I pushed her to tell me which test it was, but she wouldn’t tell me which basically confirmed my worst fears. She panicked and spat out “don’t have sex with ANYONE until you see us” and hung up on me.
There I was thousands of miles from home, in a place I didn’t speak the language, with a de facto HIV diagnosis. It’s pretty fair to say that that ruined the last week of my holiday. The GUM appointment when I got back felt like a mere formality.
Those early days were rough. I was dealing with losing my job, a divorce, forced disclosure on social media and an attempted suicide. I honestly didn’t think things would ever improve for me – despite the brave face I tried to put on.
But here we are, three years on and things couldn’t be more different. I’m working with some amazing people to educate the public on HIV prevention and awareness, as well as some other brilliant people to combat HIV related stigma and discrimination. Then we have beyondpositive a lovely collective of HIV positive people coming together to share their stories to help others. I really couldn’t be more happy with where I am work-wise.
Oh, and the final icing on the cake? I got engaged in June – to an amazing guy called Tommy. He’s the most patient and supportive person I know, and he has such a cute smile (and bum!).
I’ve gotten used to my little passenger – it hates me, I hate it, and we’re fine with that. But honestly, I don’t know where I’d be today without it.
Life is odd.
Tom (@PositiveLad on Twitter)