I was 24, in my final year at college and was planning to go to university when
I was diagnosed HIV positive in a small town in Yorkshire. I had been for the
test having had a seroconversion illness some months earlier. I received
pre-test counselling for about an hour and the counsellor went through some of
the issues and made an appointment for me to come back in two weeks’
Three days later I received a letter from the clinic that just
about made me choke on my cornflakes. It was a Friday and the letter said that I
must attend the clinic first thing on Monday morning as a matter of urgency. I
knew that this was not an invite to discuss the weather or the price of fish. I
remember looking at my mother sat in the chair and I wondered how much older it
would make her if I told her but tried to contain myself and look
On my way to college I ran down a hilly field near my parents’
house screaming loudly and crying. I remember standing at the bottom of the hill
looking at the letter and telling myself that it meant nothing, that I was no
different today than I had been the day before, the week before, the year
before. I was still me. I told myself that I was a big strong woman and this is
a tiny little virus. Trying to get the results that day only confirmed my fears.
The counsellor told me she could not give the results over the phone and that I
had to see the consultant on the Monday. Somehow the world around me looked
different, like seeing through different eyes. I knew that nothing would ever be
the same again.
I took all eight of my friends from college with me and
they paced the waiting room whilst I went in to see the consultant. The
consultant confirmed what I already knew and though I was offered post-test
counselling it seemed a bit pointless as I had been thinking over the weekend
about what the diagnosis meant. I was glad it was me and not one of my college
friends. I thought I was better equipped to deal with it. There was something
about having a battle on my hands that excited me. It was like I had a
I was the first person to be diagnosed at the clinic, but was soon
joined by Eric who introduced me to a world of wonderful gay men. My openness
about my status, large bosoms, vulgar humour and acid tongue made me very
popular and as there were very few services for women outside London, they
became my support network.
Telling my parents was awful and though my mum
never flinched at the news just saying ‘never mind love, just live life as
healthy as possible’, my dad was visibly heartbroken that his baby might die
before him. It felt like I had really let them down but I know that they are
intensely proud now.
I finished college in the September and went off to
university to do a degree in Peace Studies. By this time I was also doing talks
raising awareness in schools, with social workers, healthcare workers and
conferences with the National AIDS Trust. Over the years HIV has (and continues
to) thrown up many challenges, but it’s also brought friends and a life that is
full-to-brimming with laughs and love.
This story was first published on the Positively UK
website. Thanks to Positively UK for giving permission to reproduce it here.
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