Change of direction

I moved to Manchester with my partner to start a course in nursing with the intention of becoming a midwife. Initially everything was peachy. But I was worried that I may have been exposed to HIV shortly before starting my course. I therefore plucked up the courage to go for an HIV test.

There was no news from the clinic for over a week, which made me think “Phew! I’m negative.” However, I then received a text message from the clinic asking me to return. Trying not to think the worst, I told myself that they’d just tell me that my result was clear.

After waiting at the clinic for a short time I was called into a private room by a health adviser. “There’s no easy way to tell you this, so I’ll get straight to the point. Your result came back HIV-positive.”

She then told me that having HIV wouldn’t affect my career in nursing – unless I wanted to work in surgery or be a midwife. “Great,” I thought, “that’s the end of my career too.”

The world collapsed around me and I broke down in tears.

My next concern was about telling my partner. How would I do this? What would I say? How would he react?

That night, I collapsed in the garden crying. My partner put his arms around me asking what the matter was. I told him that I’d just found out that I was HIV-positive.

His reaction wasn’t good. He let go of me and backed away. I don’t think he knew what to think or say.

In the days that followed, all I could think was that being diagnosed with HIV had ended the life I had planned for myself. I became rather down and went to see my GP who prescribed antidepressants.

The GP also arranged some counselling sessions, and my first set of test results from the clinic showed that my CD4 cell count was over 600 and I wouldn’t have to start HIV treatment anytime soon. I therefore started to develop a more hopeful outlook.

Although things are still difficult, my attitude is gradually changing. I see HIV as something I’ll live with, not die from. I’m also glad to say that my relationship with my partner has improved.

Things are also looking up with my career. Rather than training to become a midwife, I’m now studying to become a paediatric nurse. Yes, one door closed, but another one has opened.

The lesson of my story is that finding out I have HIV wasn’t the end of my life, just the beginning of a new phase.

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