Finding support

I found out I had HIV in June 2005. My world just fell apart. I didn’t know that I needed an HIV test, but the nurse at my GP suggested that I should go to a GUM clinic and have one because I had thrush.

Well, I didn’t know what a GUM clinic was and when I found it at my local hospital I panicked when I saw the posters about HIV and sexually transmitted infections. But then I told myself to calm down as I had been through similar experiences before. The year before I was diagnosed with a brain tumour and had a lot of tests, although I wasn’t tested for HIV.

Two weeks later I went back to the hospital to get my results. The health adviser told me I had HIV and that my CD4 cell count was 72. I didn’t know what that meant.

Believe me, I can’t describe the emotions that were flowing within me. I felt that my whole life had been snatched away from me. All my plans dissolved. I felt like the world was closing in on me. The day before I was told that I had HIV I had a test so I could become a nurse in the navy. Now I needed to abandon these plans and start combination therapy treatment for HIV.

Initially I dealt with HIV all by myself. It was a one-woman journey. I hid in my job, worked out at the gym, and when I wasn’t doing anything, the four walls of my room were my refuge. I found comfort in reading novels. I didn’t cry or release any emotion.

This took its toll. I developed illnesses and side-effects I’d never heard of before and became depressed. I ended up leaving my job.

Then my health adviser referred me to a support organisation called Living Well.

Six months after finding out that I had HIV, I told my aunt. She’s my next of kin. She took it okay, but she was not happy.

But going to Living Well, I met people who have had HIV for 15 or even 20 years. I began to become more comfortable about having HIV, and was working hard and taking care of myself and going to the gym.

My viral load is now undetectable and my CD4 cell count is 208. I’ve just done a self-management course and it’s given me an insight into what I want to do next – I’d like to work with people with chronic illnesses.

Unfortunately my brain tumour came back in November 2005 – part of all the stress of my HIV diagnosis. I really don’t know if I am in control. It’s been very hard finding out that I have two chronic illnesses in the space of a year – there’ve been times when I haven’t wanted to live past 30, but at other times I want to get involved with people and put back something I’ve learnt from my own experiences.

Help us to support people like Pamella and make a donation to NAM today. Thank you.

My hero!

By Philip

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