Mary, aged 45, London

Focusing on my futureGaining strength through the love and support of others

"I discovered I was positive when I went for a routine test at a charity I wanted to volunteer for. I was devastated. I had the courage to call two friends of mine and one told me she herself was positive. My friends were such a source of support for me during this hard time; another took me for a confirmation test and helped me register with an HIV clinic, all along offering kindness and support.

After my diagnosis, I stopped looking for a relationship because I feared the stigma and discrimination I would face. After about 6 years, I went to a party and met a nice guy that I fancied. I was torn between letting him go or letting him know.

I sent him a message informing him about my status. At first, he thought I was lying but once I told him it was true, he told me he still wanted me regardless of my status and we dated for over 5 years. I was undetectable for the entire time we were together and was taught at the clinic that there is not risk of HIV transmission if I am undetectable (U=U). He knew that I had an undetectable viral load and never showed any fear of getting infected. Even though we are no longer dating, he has always been supportive.

After we separated, I met another guy, but sadly my HIV status was not as well received this time. This new guy and I were never intimate, we never even kissed or held hands, yet when I told him about my status, he was furious I didn’t tell him sooner and he never contacted me again.

I never told any member of my family and I don’t intend to in the near future, not because they will discriminate or stigmatise me, but because they will feel sorry for me and think I will die soon. People are still living in the dark about HIV and don’t realise that people living with HIV can live a happy and healthy life.”

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