On June 16th 2013 I will be taking part in the Terrence Higgins Trust‘s ‘Walk For Life’. The aim of the walk is to raise vital funds for the HIV Hardship Fund.
Imagine for a moment that you’re HIV positive (if you’re not already), you’ve got plenty on your plate to deal with as it is right? Now imagine you can’t afford to feed yourself, your family, keep a roof over your head or afford warm clothing for the winter. Things are bad with the economy right now, most of us are feeling the pinch – but it’s those who are already in a bad situation who are hit hardest at times like these.
When I was out of work, was forced to move back home and at the same time dealing with my HIV diagnosis I felt like I had few people to turn to and even fewer options to take. The Terrence Higgins Trust gave me a helping hand with its HIV Hardship Fund and their counsellors threw me a lifeline via MyHIV.org.uk – so taking part in this event is the least I can do.
Please give what you can, every penny you donate will go to helping those living in crisis with HIV up and down the UK. There are no overheads being taken from your donations, as those are covered by the registration fees paid by walkers like myself. If you’re a UK tax-payer please remember to click the ‘GiftAid’ box too and the Terrence Higgins Trust can claim back 25p for every £1 you donate. Thank you.
You can donate by following this link: http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/ukpositivelad
Everyone who sponsors will get a shout out and a follow back on Twitter, and those who donate £50 or more will get a hand written thank you card from myself as a sign of my gratitude for doing such an amazing thing for others
All my love,
As a single man I dread those four little words. They seem to be the standard prefix to the word “but” followed by a reason they can’t/don’t want to date you. I can’t even begin to remember all the various versions I’ve heard. Here are just a few:
- You’re a lovely guy BUT you’re not my type
- You’re a lovely guy BUT we’re in different places
- You’re a lovely guy BUT you live too far away
- You’re a lovely guy BUT I already have a boyfriend
- You’re a lovely guy BUT I’m not looking for anything right now
…and of course…
- You’re a lovely guy BUT you’re HIV+
After a while you start to wonder whether people even mean it when they say “You’re a lovely guy”, or is it just a conversational reflex? A way of trying to cushion the rapidly approaching bad news or perhaps make themselves feel better about the information they’re about to impart? I even found myself about to say it last night – I caught myself just in time but hated myself a little for almost saying it.
It never ceases to amaze me the number of rude/obnoxious/unpleasant guys who’re in relationships (or at the very least getting laid) whilst the more genuine and personable amongst us are left on the scrapheap. Perhaps I’m doing something wrong? Perhaps I should be less “lovely”? Truth be told I’m not sure I can change this far on in life – I’m stuck in lovely mode. Lovely but lonely.
I hope you’re all having a good Friday are enjoying the snow as much as you can do. I’m sat on my sofa with a box of biscuits in my dressing gown as I watch the pretty white stuff float past my living room window – I have little intention of moving for the foreseeable future.
Last night Channel 5 (in the UK) showed ‘Gareth Thomas - Coming Out: My Secret Past’
The whole programme was incredibly moving and has inspired me to write my own coming out story. Are you sitting comfortably? Then I will begin…
I’d known I was gay from a very young age. Around the age of seven I knew something was different about me, I wasn’t interested in playing ‘kiss chase’ with the girls – instead I’d rather hang out in the library with a good book. By the age of nine I was already being gently teased for being gay. I wasn’t sure what the other children even meant by that.
I had a couple of girlfriends (as much as any nine year old can) but they never felt right.
At the age of twelve I had my first gay kiss with a neighbour of mine, he was a year older than me. I was over at his on a particularly hot Summer’s day, we were playing in the garden and at one point sought shelter from the sun in a tent that we had put up earlier that day. We were talking in the tent when all of a sudden he grabbed me and kissed me. It was a moment of realisation for me. It just felt right, everything clicked into place and suddenly the last few years started to make sense to me.
The next year was a confusing one for me. I know knew what I was, I was “gay”, but I wasn’t willing to accept it yet. I was certain that my friends and family would be ashamed and upset that I wasn’t “normal” and so I tried to hide it. I got myself another girlfriend, I started getting more involved with sports at school even though I didn’t enjoy them – I wanted to be one of the lads. Despite this the teasing progressed into bullying, things got more difficult for me at school and my grades started to suffer as a result. I even stopped going to P.E. lessons (gym & sports class for overseas readers), I simply skipped the lessons and went and hid in the library or IT room.
Things got too much for me. I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t concentrate at school and I didn’t feel like I could confide in anyone. One evening I snuck out of the house and wandered up the country lane to a phone-box and called ChildLine – I wanted to know what I should do. They put me in touch with the local Gay & Lesbian Switchboard, I spoke to the guy at the end of the phone for what felt like hours. He told me of his own coming out story and I was stuck by how similar it was to my own. He also told me that no-one could make me “come out” (the first time I’d heard that phrase) only I could do that for myself when the time was right – but the sooner I got it off my chest the better I would feel. I owe a lot to that gentleman.
A few weeks later, not long after my thirteenth birthday, I was at school. I was in a chemistry lesson and another boy in my class was picked on for being gay. I could feel myself getting angrier and angrier. I couldn’t hold it back any longer, the words were coming up like a tsunami, I yelled across the room: “WHAT’S WRONG WITH BEING GAY? LEAVE HIM ALONE!”.
“Shit” I thought to myself, as I noticed them turn their attention away from the other lad and towards me, the girl next to me asked “So you are gay?”. The silence seemed to go on forever, you could hear a pin drop – even the chemistry teacher had stopped what he was doing to listen in.
Eventually I simply said “Yes, I am gay” then turned to the teacher and said “Can we get back on with the lesson?”. That was the first proper time I’d come out to anyone, and I’d done it to an entire classroom of my fellow students. Naturally the news made it around the school in minutes via text message, absolutely everyone knew by the end of the lesson. But oddly enough that’s when the bullying stopped. No more insults or shoving in the corridors, it was like I’d taken the power away from them by doing it myself.
Now that 1,200 kids knew I thought it was probably wise to tell my parents as soon as possible, before they heard from anyone else. I went into the living room after we’d had our dinner, Mum & Dad were there reading their papers. I started up “Mum, Dad, I’ve got something to tell you” – they put down the papers and turned to me. I froze, just couldn’t do it. Announcing it to thirty kids in an adrenaline fuelled rage was one thing, but calmly telling my parents was something else.
I ran. I grabbed my coat and trainers and ran for an eternity until I ended up in a field next to the park in the next village over. I lay there in field staring at the night sky, my analytical mind trying to come up with every combination of words and how they’d be received. Nothing felt right. But my parents knew something was up now. What do I do?
Another couple of hours of star-gazing and thinking passed before I decided to head home. Maybe they wouldn’t ask? Maybe it’d just be forgotten? As I walked home I saw it, the same phone-box I’d used before. It was glowing like a beacon of light and hope on the pitch black country lane. I don’t know what possessed me, but I just ran to it – picked up the phone and dialled home.
Mum answered, she sounded worried, she asked where I was and what was wrong? I felt it again, the word tsunami… out it came “Mum, I’m gay, I’m sorry”. Immediately she replied “Don’t be silly, there’s nothing to be sorry about. Where are you? Your father has been driving around looking for you!”. I told her where I was and a few minutes later Dad pulled up in the car and took me home. It was a silent car ride, not awkwardly though – just a ‘nothing needs to be said’ silence.
When I got home Mum gave me a hug, Dad gave me a hug and I just excused myself and went to bed. I had school the next morning and nothing was going to get in my way any more. I don’t think I’d ever slept as soundly as I did that night.
Coming out was one of the most positive things I ever did for myself, it let me be happy again and stopped me feeling like I was hiding secrets from those who loved and cared about me. Thank you to my friends and my Mum & Dad for being so supportive.
I’ve made no secret of the fact I suffer from depression. In fact I’ve been diagnosed with ‘Severe Clinical Depression’ on 3 separate occasions now, for which I was medicated. This tends to happen sporadically, in between I’m mostly sound as a pound – but now and then I get little dips.
The last week or so has been one of these dips. To start with I tried to chalk it up as January Blues but after a few days I realised it was more than that.
I can identify the signs right from the beginning:
- Lack of energy
- Inability to get out of bed in the morning
- No desire to go and do things
- Becoming withdrawn and quiet
- Feeling lonely
A few years ago I’d knuckle down, get stuck into some big project at work and then come home and cuddle up with the husband to worm my way out of the depression. I don’t really have that option any more. My job is neither interesting nor involved enough to bury myself in, and my luck in love has been beyond awful for the last few years.
I actually started writing this article 30 minutes ago, with the idea of writing how I’ve been working hard not to show my depression to the guy I’ve been dating, as he’s been so sweet and understanding with regards to the whole HIV issue. But only 10 minutes ago I got a text message saying he was breaking up with me because he couldn’t handle the strain on him of dating someone who was HIV+. So I’m kind of lost now.
I just want someone to cuddle up with on the cold nights, chat to about my worries and how I’m feeling. It’s not easy being HIV+, it’s doubly not easy being HIV+ and suffering from depression. I can’t see this cloud clearing in the next week now. Sigh.
Sorry for the miserable blog but sometimes I just need to vent, and seeing as it’s just me here you lot get the raw end of the deal.
An appropriate clip from Sex & The City…
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?
Good day to you fine men and women of the internets,
If you follow my blogs and tweets you may recall that last week I ran a interactive poll on my website asking whether you could date someone with a HIV status that was different to yours (i.e. if you’re HIV- could you date someone who was HIV+ and vice versa). Over 600 of you (628 to be precise) took part in the poll and here are the results and my musings there on.
Out of the 429 HIV negative people who voted 51% (232 votes) said that they could not date someone who was HIV positive, as opposed to 49% (227 votes) who said that they could. From the 169 HIV positive people who voted 26% (44 votes) opted to say that they could not date someone who was HIV negative, and 74% (125 votes) said that they could.
Let’s look at the HIV negative voters first. That’s quite an astonishing split, pretty much down the line 50/50. I don’t know about you but I find that more than a little disheartening. What that means to me personally is, if I approach someone I like I’ve got a 50% chance of being rejected based purely on something in my blood. That hardly seems fair. This I assume is based on people’s fear of contracting HIV from their prospective partners, but if said partner is on treatment and condoms are used the risk of infection is infinitesimal. To those people I’d recommend they do some reading (sites such as HIVaware.org.uk are very useful) and gain a decent understanding of the risks.
The majority of the HIV positive voters on the other hand, three quarters essentially, stated that they could date someone who was HIV negative, but a quarter said that they could not. Again, I guess this is people who are worried that they would pass on HIV to their HIV negative partner. As above, with treatment and precautions this risk can effectively be negated. It’s hard enough to find a decent partner in this life without limiting yourself to a pool of approx 100,000 people in the UK (0.16%) out of a population of 62,000,000.
I won’t deny that I’ve often thought it’d be easier to date someone HIV+, but with such a small selection of guys to choose from – especially in rural areas like mine, it seems somewhat self defeating. With treatments for HIV rapidly evolving a person diagnosed HIV+ today can expect a normal life expectancy and who knows what new medical breakthroughs are around the corner? So I ask you this, no matter what your HIV status, base your decision on whether to date someone or not on them as a person, not on what’s in their blood.
Have a wonderful Wednesday,
To rip off a rather famous Fawlty Towers quote: “Don’t mention the HIV!”.
This is how I’m feeling attempting to fund-raise for the THT WalkForLife, and about HIV/sexual health in general.
In the real world people seem incredibly uncomfortable talking about sex, let alone sexual health and HIV, often resorting to jokes and then rapidly changing the subject. I had hoped that Twitter might have been different, but I’m increasingly being proven wrong. People seem happy to chatter on about reality TV, post pictures of cats in boxes and Lady Gaga videos but dare mention HIV and they clam up. Don’t get me wrong, I’m no stranger to LOLcats and the Gaga, they definitely have their place on twitter – but so should important and meaningful content.
As I’ve mentioned I’m busy fund-raising for the THT WalkForLife, a event that raises essential funds for a great HIV charity. I’ve tweeted dozens of celebrities (gay and straight) as well as numerous organisations asking for their support – both in sponsorship and retweets, only two have retweeted me so far.
They seem happy to re-tweet appeals for sponsorship for cancer, or birthday wishes – but I’ve not seen a single re-tweet (of mine, or anyone else’s) about HIV. Is one click on the re-tweet button too much effort? Do they think they’re going to scare away their hundreds of thousands of followers with a single tweet about a HIV charity? I’m finding it frustrating beyond words. That one click could generate hundreds of pounds of much needed revenue for a very worthy cause.
So far, over the 12 days that I have been fund-raising 13 awesome people have donated an amazing £440.
But that’s 13 out of 1,356 followers. If everybody donated £1 that would be £1,356 I’d raised, if everyone donated £5 that would total £6,780 for THT.
Please, whether you’re a celebrity or a normal minion like me donate what you can – I’ve already paid my £15 registration and my train fares to London, and click that RT button. It’s free. It’s instant and it can help those people who need THT‘s support.
My Sponsorship page
Good afternoon boys and girls,
In 31 days time I’ll be taking on the THT Walk for Life 2012. A 10km trek around London to raise money for the Terrence Higgins Trust.
The Terrence Higgins Trust is an amazing charity that provides support and information to those living with HIV in the UK, as well as their prevention and awareness work. They’ve helped me out in some of my darkest hours with their online and telephone counselling – I really don’t know where I’d be today without them.
They also run the ground-breaking site MyHIV.org.uk which provides both advice and a meeting place for those living with HIV in the UK. Already there are over a thousand people on the forums, and regular coffee afternoons spawning all over the country. It’s almost impossible to write down everything they do here, but needless to say they do a lot – and THEY NEED YOUR SUPPORT.
Please sponsor me for the THT 10k Walk for Life, every pound will help someone in some way. Be it their hardship fund providing assistance to those living in poverty with HIV or hiring more counsellors to talk to those desperately in need.
You can find my sponsorship page here: http://fundraising.tht.org.uk/UKPositiveLad
Please give generously, please give what you can.
All my love and gratitude,
Two blog posts in one week? I know, I’m spoiling you, but read on…
Possibly the single biggest issue for me about being HIV+ isn’t my health, the medication etc, it’s actually the rejection that you can face when you tell someone your status.
One of the first people I ever disclosed my status to was a holiday romance. We’d been hanging out for a couple of days, drinking, swimming, holding hands etc, all very romantic. One afternoon I got a text asking me to spend the night with him at his hotel, I thought it only fair that I tell him my (fairly recently found) HIV status. That was one of the most difficult texts I ever had to send not just from my nervous clammy hands or the heart beating in my mouth.
He replied shortly saying that he was “OK with it”, but at the same time said that we’d have to postpone the night at the hotel because of plans with his friends. That was the last time we ever had a proper conversation. I tried chatting to him a couple of times after that, mostly he just ignored my calls/texts – the final time he answered but pretended to be someone else. I’d been well and truly rejected. Gutted.
Since that day I’ve had a policy of telling people I plan to sleep with/date as soon as possible. If someone messages me on Gaydar/Grindr asking for a fuck I have no problem saying right up front “By the way, I’m HIV+. I hope that’s not an issue?”. But as I found out last night it’s still pretty nerve-wracking telling someone you have feelings for.
Last night I agreed to go on a date with someone I’ve been talking to for a while. He’s very handsome, totally buff and a bit shorter than me. Amazing. Then it dawned on me that I was going to have to tell him. I decided to do it then and there, seeing as we were already chatting.
I said “In the spirit of openness and honesty I need to share something with you. Plus it saves us both heartache if it’s something you feel you can’t handle. Please be honest with me either way. I’m HIV positive”. Cue a ridiculously long wait. Why wasn’t he replying? Was it too much? Fuck, fuckity fuck.
He *eventually* replied “Hey, don’t stress about it. My ex had it, and we were together five years”. Overjoyed. He was absolutely fine with it and thanked me for being so honest. We’ve even planned our date for this Monday night coming.
Disclosing your status isn’t an easy thing to do, no matter how readily we might do it. All that we ask is that the people we tell are honest with us. If you’re uncomfortable being with someone that’s HIV+ then tell us (nicely!), we’d much rather that than being lied to – then ignored.