As some of you know I’ve had some sad news over the last couple of days. I’m not one to let me get it down though, I mean I’ve had to deal with shit since as long as I can remember – and especially since I was 13. But I always bounce back.
This song, ‘Boomerang’ by Nicole Scherzinger, kinda sums up how I’m feeling at the moment. The tune is upbeat and the lyrics really hit home as well.
To those of you trying to drag me down, screw you – you’ll get yours I promise, karma is a shit.
Here’s to a excellent weekend in Manchester.
How’re we all doing? What’s that? Speak up I can’t hear you!
Just a little blog post to let you know that the April 2013 issue of ATTITUDE Magazine is out now in digital format, available on iPad, iPhone, Android and pretty much any other device going – you can get your copy here. For those of you who like something to hold in your hand it’ll be on new-stands from this Wednesday 6th March.
This issue our cover star is the stunning James Franco talking about cruising bars, leather and the Wizard of Oz. Zac Efron’s new film ‘The Paperboy’, lots of men in swimwear and my coming out piece. Yes that’s right – this month is the first month you’ll see my face in ATTITUDE Magazine, well all of it anyway. I talk about my journey so far, the support I’ve received and the highs and lows of my short time so far living with HIV.
Check it out!
If you follow me on Twitter (and you really should) you may have noticed that I changed my avatar, name and posted a photo of myself. Yes, all of my face, not a quarter of it, or obscured by a book, or an owl or something.
I’d always planned to reveal my true identity on the 1st March, just a couple of days ahead of my Attitude Magazine column – on the day I headed to Brighton for the Student Pride weekend I’m attending. But last night I was over with a friend, I was talking about the whole thing and getting more and more nervous. Then one follower on twitter suggested I should treat it like a plaster and just rip it off, get it over and done with quickly.
After a little thought, and a large Gin & Tonic I did it. I thought “She’s right. To hell with it. 5 days isn’t going to change anything” and posted “Hello, my name is Tom, and I’m @UKPositiveLad” (see screenshot of tweet to the right).
To say the response was positive is putting it mildly. I only had my personal phone on me, and not my UKPositiveLad mobile, but when I came home I saw that I’d received 53 DMs, 503 mentions and loads more RTs and Favourites. Completely overwhelming.
I want to thank you all for your kind words, support and encouragement. It’s been quite a journey from being diagnosed (not all that long ago really) to starting the blog as “Sam” through to coming out as Tom.
Fear not though, I’m still the same blogger and twit(terer) you’ve come to know over all these months – I’m just doing it with a face and my real name now. It’s pretty liberating.
I look forward to speaking to you all soon, I’m going leave you all with a little YouTube video (a bit camp) but the song pretty much sums up how I’m feeling at the moment!
Today I’m taking a day off. Today is all about me.
I’m struggling to remember the last time I actually took a proper breather. I’m either at my day job which has me in the office from 8am, or I’m running up and down the country attending various charity events, writing my column, or replying to the deluge of emails I get each day. I’m actually and literally exhausted.
To quote The Beautiful South “You can see where we‘ve been shopping by the bag beneath our eyes”.
Today I’ve taken a day of leave. I was supposed to get up at 9:30am (a nice lie in) I slept straight through that alarm and woke up at 11:38. I’m pretty sure that’s a combination of the lack of sleep I’ve had lately and my meds. I’m finding dragging myself out of bed impossible of late – but a 12 hour sleep is unheard of for me.
As we speak I’m on a train to go and see my family. I didn’t get time to see my niece on her birthday last week because I had a speaking engagement, and I feel awful about that. But today I’m going to make up for it. It’ll be great to see my parents, my sisters and my niece and nephew and just be me for a day.
So the emails, the phone calls, the whole HIV thing can go on the back burner for a day, starting…. NOW.
Hello, come on in – take a seat,
So that’s 2012 done with is it? The year of the Olympics (well watching Tom Daley in speedos), the Queen’s Jubilee, crazy weather and the start of my writing (in any meaningful sense). Now we’re carefully stepping into 2013, like walking in fresh snow when you’re not sure how deep it is. *crunch*.
It’s traditional in January for one to come up with a list of resolutions, things we want to change about ourselves or achieve in the coming year. I could write a list as long as my arm quite frankly, but then I’d lose focus, so I’ve decided to concentrate on five resolutions for 2013.
- Get a better job
In these tough economic times I should consider myself lucky to be employed, and I honestly do. That’s not to say that I enjoy it terribly much however. 2013 is the year I drop the mediocre admin job and start doing something fulfilling and worthwhile.
- Find myself a nice guy
I’ve been single for pretty much two years now, ignoring one short lived relationship with an emotionally stunted queen and a couple of mini-flings. I’m officially in my late-twenties now (or mature-twink as I like to call it), and I’d quite like to find someone to join me on this crazy journey. Dating when you’re HIV+ is at best a chore, and down right depressing at it’s worst, so I’d like to get it out the way and find myself someone a bit geeky, who likes walking, travelling and wine. Failing that Greg Rutherford or Jonnie Peacock would do.
- Eat less take-away food
A quick browse of my hungryhouse order history makes for depressing reading. I can’t believe how many pizzas, chinese and indian takeaways I ate in the second half of last year. That’s the trouble when you only have to tap on the phone app and can pay by card, it’s all too easy. The trouble is its also very expensive and not very good for me, my HIV consultant is always telling me to eat more fruit and veg, and less fatty foods. This year – more home cooking!
- Drink less wine
Yeah, that’s not gonna happen. Why? I’m drinking a glass right now. Want some? Well you can’t have any – it’s mine.
- No more Mr Undercover
This is going to be the year that I finally show you all who Sam really is. I can’t tell you when it’ll be, and it’s not going to be for a while, but it will happen. There are a lot of people in my life that I still want to tell in person, rather than them seeing a blog post, or a tweet about it. But once that’s out of the way there’ll be no stopping me.
What’re your New Year’s Resolutions? Have you stuck to them, or have you already caved in and gone back to your old ways? Share them below in the comments box and forever immortalise your pledge…
All the best,
The January issue of Attitude Magazine is out today in iPad format, and hits shops next Wednesday (12th December). Yes I know it’s not even half way through December yet, but that’s how things work in the publishing world apparently!
In my column this month I go off on a bit of a rant about my privacy or lack there of when it comes to my HIV status. People, it seems, have been gossiping left right and centre and I’m less than pleased – to put it mildly. Seriously, people wonder why there’s stigma still attached to HIV…
Also in this issue you can enjoy an interview with the stunningly handsome Olympian that is Jonnie Peacock, a special on the hottest men in theatre, Rhianna’s 777 Tour and exclusive behind the scenes info from ‘The Hobbit’. Essential reading to stop you going stir-crazy over the holidays…
Have a fun Friday!
Currently 100,000 people are estimated to be living with HIV in the UK, but an estimated 25% of those are undiagnosed.
That’s 25,000 people who have HIV and don’t know about it! As we come to the end of HIV Testing Week in the UK and approach World AIDS Day 2012 I put some of your questions about getting tested and HIV to Dr Sebastian Winckler from DrEd.
1. Why is it so important to get tested for HIV?
Early testing is vital both for you, and for the people you’re sleeping with.
If you’ve got HIV and you’re getting treatment you can expect to live 40 years longer than someone who isn’t receiving treatment.
If you’re taking antiretroviral medication, you become less infectious to other people. Being aware of your status means you can start putting certain measure in place (such as safe sex)
to prevent transmission, as well as looking after your own health.
2. What stops some people from getting tested?
There are a lots of reasons why people avoid HIV tests, but usually it’s down to:
- The stigma surrounding HIV and AIDs: Despite advancements in treatment, in some communities there is still stigma about being HIV+, so many people feel embarrassed about getting tested. Remember, there is no shame in being HIV+.
- The inconvenience of testing: If you work during the day, it can be hard work finding the time to go.
- Fear: Some people are simply scared off getting a result they don’t want to hear. Remember though, it’s better to get tested and treated rather than making yourself, or others, ill.
3. Where can I get tested?
HIV tests are available free and confidentially from:
- Sexual health (GUM) clinics
- HIV testing centres (Terrence Higgins Trust Fastest centres, for example)
- LGBT Centres
- GP’s and family doctors
- HIV tests are available to buy from:
- Private clinics
- Online doctors services
4. I haven’t had any symptoms, so I probably don’t have HIV, right?
Wrong. Most people will experience a short, flu-like illness about 2- 6 weeks after being infected. This is your immune system putting up an initial fight against the virus and can last for up to a month. But, this can be easily mistaken for the flu and 20% of people don’t experience any symptoms at all.
After this has gone away, you are unlikely to notice any other symptoms for a long period of time. So the only way of knowing for sure is getting yourself tested.
5. Can a test pick up any HIV infection, regardless of when I’ve caught it?
No. A certain amount of genetic material needs to build up in your system before it can be accurately detected by a test. The time taken for this to happen is called the ‘window period’ and this is different for every test.
- The standard antibody (Ab) test will pick up HIV if you caught it more than 3 months ago.
- The combined antibody/ antigen test (4th Generation test) will pick up HIV if you caught it more than 6 weeks ago.
- The HIV PCR test will pick up HIV if you caught it more than 7-10 days ago.
In most cases, you will be given either the standard antibody or combined test. If you test negative for these, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you are HIV negative, because you might have been infected within the last 3 months (or 6 weeks). You are therefore advised to take a second test 3 months later for the all clear.
If you want a faster result you can pay for a PCR test. But these are only offered at some clinics and may cost up to £250.
6. I think I’ve caught HIV within the last few days, what do I do?
If you’re worried that you’ve contracted HIV very recently, as in, within the past 72 hours (3 days) then you should go to your local GUM clinic or A&E department and request emergency PEP treatment.
7. I’m afraid to get tested because I don’t like needles
HIV tests don’t have to be done via needle or syringe, some clinics use ‘Fastest’ Rapid Testing which simply takes a prick on the end of your finger. Other clinics may take oral swabs instead, this method is considered less effective than a blood test however, so some clinics won’t offer it.
8. How long do I have to wait for my results?
That depends on the clinic you go to. Most will contact you with your result (or ask you to come back in for it) within 3-5 days. If you take a rapid test your result will be ready within the hour. Some clinics can take up to 2 weeks however, don’t be afraid to ask when you should expect the results.
9. What happens if I test positive?
First off, a positive result doesn’t always mean you’re HIV+. There is a small margin of error, so all positive results must be followed up by a confirmation test.
If you do test positive for that, then the doctor or nurse who informs you of your result will set up a meeting with a specialist who can assess the stage of your infection and talk to you about relevant treatment options. You’ll be put in touch with local HIV support groups who can help you cope emotionally, and make you realise that a positive result is not the end.
Thirty years on and HIV is still a problem in the UK, but it is no longer a death sentence. There is help out there and the earlier you get tested, the better your prospects. Whatever you do, make sure you get tested this HIV Testing Week.
Some charities that can help:
Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen,
Just a quick post to let you know that the December issue of Attitude Magazine is OUT NOW!
This month there’s not one but TWO pieces from me in the mag, as well as my monthly column, in which I have a good old rant, you’ll find a World AIDS Day feature from yours truly about living with HIV and what World AIDS Day means to me in 2012.
As you’d expect from a December issue there’s plenty on Christmas, parties, shopping and an interview with the very lovely John Whaite of Great British Bake Off Fame (as featured on the front cover).
So what’re you waiting for? Pop down the shops and grab a copy, or if you’ve got an iPad why not download the funky interactive iPad Edition?
Welcome to Friday, it’s VERY nearly the weekend. I thought I’d pop a blog post up whilst I’ve some time to kill at work – counting down the minutes until home-time. Today’s post isn’t really HIV related per se, it’s just about people and attitudes.
Last night I had a date, well I thought I had a date anyway. I wasn’t entirely in the mood for it if I’m honest, I’d spent a long day chaperoning at the local GUM/HIV clinic – which is incredibly draining both physically and emotionally, but hey I’m not one to turn down a date. We were to meet at 8:30pm at my local train station and head into the city for some dinner and drinks, so I spent an age picking what to wear and doing my hair (that rhymes, wasn’t meant to), then headed to the station. I got there a bit early as I’d rather be early than late and make a bad impression.
8:30pm – no sign, not everyone is as conscientious about timing as I am.
8:40pm – he must be running late
8:45pm – I send him a text, which is delivered (according to iMessage)
8:50pm – I call him (he doesn’t answer)
9:00pm – I realise I’ve been stood up and mope my way home to eat an entire packet of hobnobs.
I felt like a complete moron. I wasn’t in the mood, got myself all excited about it, made myself up and made the effort to go meet him, waited around in the cold for 30 minutes and he couldn’t even be bothered to send a text message to tell me he wasn’t coming. It might be funny if this wasn’t the first time in recent history that this has happened, not with the same guy I hasten to add. It’s hard enough to find guys interested in you when you’re HIV+, it’s even harder when they don’t turn up!
I’m growing weary of being overlooked, taken for granted or generally pissed upon. It’s not even just people I know, it’s the general public too – I’ve got so fed up of holding doors open for people never to be thanked that I’ve started shouting “YOU’RE WELCOME!” at the top of my lungs as they walk away, the other day I helped a woman carry her child-in-pushchair up a flight of stairs – I didn’t get so much as a “ta” or a nod of the head. Why do I bother?
I need a serious injection of positivity and reassurance, before I turn into Agnetha from ABBA and move to my own remote island and block out the word. Less sequined clothing though, might be a bit much for just me and my inevitable 94 cats.
Today, September 10th 2012, is World Suicide Prevention Day.
Suicide is not something people find easy to discuss, this isn’t helped that by the fact that it is still considered a criminal act in many countries (but not the UK since 1961), or that many religions consider it a “sin” – all of this keeps suicide a taboo subject, one that people tend to shy away from given the chance.
But talking is what we need to do. In 2010 in the UK 5,608 people committed suicide (4,321 men & 1,377 women). A recent study by the University of Manchester showed that only 27% of people who committed suicide in the UK between 2000 and 2010 had spoken to a mental health professional. That means 73% (4093 people) didn’t feel they could seek professional assistance with how they were feeling.
There’s a tendency these days to shrug off suicide, and even term it a selfish act, and on the face of things I can see how people reach that conclusion, but you need to step into the shoes of the person in question. How bad had things got in their life that they felt that their only remaining course of action was to take their own lives? That they had no-one to talk to? No other form of resolution?
A few months ago I wrote a blog post, ‘The Night I Almost Died’, about how the selfish and callous actions of someone I had trusted left me feeling that there was no way out but to go out on a cold night and jump off a bridge. My reputation, my life, my self worth and confidence were all in tatters due to one vile and baseless rumour, something I thought I’d never live down. I probably wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for my friend Ben, who spoke to me in the middle of the night, who calmed me down when I was shaking and in tears, or without the help of the counsellors at MyHIV.org.uk who helped me rebuild my confidence.
So today on Suicide Awareness Day take a moment to think of your friends, your colleagues, your family – is there anyone who’s feeling down? Someone who’s more anxious or withdrawn than normal? Why not give them a call, or arrange a coffee and ask how they’re doing. From personal experience I can tell you that there’s nothing more reassuring than hearing a friendly voice and seeing a familiar face when you’re at your lowest.
If you’re the one feeling low, why not take the initiative and call a friend up yourself, and if you really feel you can’t talk to your friends about what’s going on there are organisations out there that can help you. If it’s HIV related try the THT Direct helpline on 0808 802 1221, or if it’s more general the lovely people at Samaritans will always be there to listen on: 08457 90 90 90.
Make time for those around you this World Suicide Prevention Day.
Massive cuddles all round,