Storrm, aged 42, Brighton

Staying determined and optimistic

I have been HIV positive for 18 years and consider myself very lucky to have always been surrounded by supportive, understanding and non-judgemental people.

When I was in a car accident, however, I was dismayed and shocked by some of the questions I was asked. The trauma surgeon asked how I acquired HIV while doing his risk assessment for performing spinal surgery. I refused to answer and questioned how it was relevant. I was then told it was too risky to operate on me.

Bringing my ARVs [HIV medication] with me into hospital has made me worry about stigma. When I had my accident, I missed four days worth of medication. The weekend hospital pharmacy and duty doctors could not confirm that I should be taking the ARVs I had with me. It is frustrating having to repeatedly explain the importance of treatment adherence to medical professionals – I feel ignored because I’m the patient not the expert.

I’ve always considered myself a determined and optimistic person, a rock for the people around me. I always try to see the good in any situation. But,I’ve had a really challenging time. My partner is dealing with a difficult long-term condition, I lost my job, my business failed, I lost my best friend, and I became disabled due to degeneration of my spine following my accident. I finally spoke with my GP and asked for help.

After two failed (lost or ignored) referrals to the wellbeing service, I finally received a telephone call to assess my situation. I admitted for the first time just how hard I was finding life. This phone call resulted in a letter confirming that I was extremely anxious and seriously depressed. It highlighted that I felt the world would be ‘better off without me’ and suggested that I would benefit from one-to-one counselling. The letter then thanked me for using the service and attached a general list of organisations I could ‘self-refer’ to if I wanted to speak to someone about my situation. I’m not sure what’s worse about this, the outcome or the fact it took 9 months to get it. But I am determined to get the support that I need.”

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