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)



  1. Wow, that’s a really shitty diagnosis experience.

    I understand that they want to make sure we’re not spreading an undiagnosed virus around, but surely that breaches the “everyone should have counselling around their diagnosis” principle in one of those declarations named after some city I can’t remember.

    My experience was definitely less shitty than yours, but I was expecting to go in on the Monday to pick up the results, but got a phone call on the Thursday afternoon, while I was at work. They asked me when I could come in and I explained I’d be in on Monday: “We’d much rather you come in sooner, if you can”. So obviously I spent that evening and the following morning being 99% certain that meant I was positive.

    Is the risk that we might spread the virus further really so severe as to mean that we should effectively be told that we’re positive with no support mechanism around, no context and — as you were — no guarantee that we’re even in the right country?

    Surely, if they give a fuck about our mental health, they should be requiring everyone to come in to get their results and not giving anything away on the phone. Otherwise, why bother making us sit with a health advisor to talk it through at all?

  2. I was unlucky enough to have a similar experience in that I was working away from home when I got my call.

    However Mortimer Market were much better prepared and the health adviser gave me my diagnosis on the phone and spent some time talking to me. As it happens I dealt with it pretty well, but I got the impression that he would have stayed on the phone with me for as long as I wanted to talk.

    They made sure I had all the contact numbers and knew I could call back when I felt I needed to.

    I think they managed it spectacularly well.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here