Just a quick note to let you know that the March 2013 issue of ATTITUDE Magazine is out now, and wow is it a tasty one! This month is is ATTITUDE’s famed ‘Naked Issue’ – featuring toned torsos and buttocks from the likes of Shayne Ward and Colin Gentry.
But fear not dear reader it’s not all style and no substance, this Naked Issue ATTITUDE have teamed up with NAT (National AIDS Trust) to talk about safer sex, condom use, HIV and the importance of getting tested – a must read.
Oh, and don’t forget my column – this month I talk about how I’m having ups and downs with my medication but how I remain thankful that it’s now, and not 30 years ago. Find out why…
Lots of love,
Happy Friday to you lovely people,
Today, Friday 23rd November 2012 marks the start of National HIV Testing Week here in England. This is the first time such a large initiative has been run to encourage the people of England to go out and get tested.
National HIV Testing Week runs from Friday 23rd November to Friday 30th November, finishing just before World AIDS Day on Saturday 1st December.
The initiative is being run by the Terrence Higgins Trust, the UK’s largest HIV charity (who are celebrating their 30th birthday this year) and supported by a whole host of other organisations such as BASHH, BHIVA and the HPA.
Many people are put off going for HIV test by a fear of needles or having blood taken, but the fact is most clinics these days use rapid testing known as FastTest which involves a simple prick on your finger and you’ll get the results within minutes.
Annie Lennox was interviewed this week for ITV News about her views on HIV and testing in the UK, she said:
“We’re still struggling with the issue of stigma, fear and ignorance, There are many people that now, actually need to get tested. Friday 23rd at the end of the is the begining of National Testing week here in the country and we’ll be encouraging people to go get tested and find out their status… Go and get tested, find out your status, then you can know what you’re dealing with.” You can watch the full interview here: http://vimeo.com/53871991
Boris Johnson, The Mayor of London said:
“London is home to almost half of all people living with HIV in the UK, but a quarter of them are unaware that they carry the virus. It is vital that people who might be at risk get tested, not only to reduce the risk of transmission to others, but to ensure that they get the life-saving treatments that are available”
Even if you’ve been tested recently, or are HIV+ why not help promote National HIV Testing week via your facebook or Twitter using #HIVTestingWeek and encourage your friends to go and get tested. The sooner you know, the sooner you can take control of your health and protect those around you.
Enjoy your Friday and weekend!
Lots of Love,
There are a few things in this world that seem to infinite, space, time, Cher’s fair-well tours, and gay men’s capacity for gossip.
I don’t know what it is about gay men but we just love a bit of gossip. I myself am not immune to this phenomenon, I’ll put my hands up now. But there are some things that you just don’t gossip about and a person’s HIV status is one of those.
Imagine my surprise the other night when I get a IM from someone I barely know saying “Are you HIV positive?”. I didn’t answer straight away but instead inquired as to why he was asking. Apparently a joint “friend” had seen us chatting online and thought that he should tell him for his own protection. Because, you know, you can get HIV over instant messaging these days.
Furthermore it’s apparently a “Well known fact” that I’m HIV positive and that I “go around barebacking people without telling them”. Ah that old rumour again eh? Never gets old that one. This is the darker side of the gay grapevine. Without me even having confirmed my HIV status I was then told how what I was doing was “reckless” and “criminal”. I tried to point out that the spreading of such unfounded rumours was, in fact, libel – a criminal offence. He didn’t take this well.
The whole exchange left me feeling angry and violated. Angry because it’s no-one’s business what my HIV status is, and it’s certainly not their place to be going around telling people. Violated because my name is being dragged through the mud by “friends” unknown – who actually think I’m going around infecting people with HIV. The very thought left me feeling physically sick, I wouldn’t wish this virus on my worst enemy.
The stigma surrounding HIV is never going to go away if people trade other people’s HIV statuses like dirty little secrets, something to be ashamed of. But nor should we feel we have to announce it to the world and his dog to pre-empt the rumour mill. How about we allow HIV positive people some respect and privacy and let them tell only who they want, and when they want – and not out them like some sort of sideshow attraction?
So before you pass on that juicy bit of gossip you just heard, take a moment to think: How is this going to effect the person? Do I have any right to tell people this? How would I like it if people said this about me? Maybe the rumour could stop with you?
From my hidey cave,
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.
In my previous post I talked about my use of technology to aid my quest for love. Dating technology has evolved over time; from dating agencies and singles ads in newspapers, onto phone chat lines, texting services and onto dating/hook-up websites (such as gaydar, fitlads, manhunt etc). The latest technology to be adopted for this purpose is the smartphone – there are countless apps promising to help you find love, make friends or just get a little action.
The most popular one of these (amongst the gay community at least) is Grindr. For those of you who are unfamilar with Grindr – you create a profile with your stats, add a photograph and a short welcome message and in return Grindr shows you other guys logged in near your location by use of GPS. You can message the guys, swap pictures etc. All very cool. I’ve been on Grindr since it was launched. I’ve always been at the cutting edge, trying new apps and gadgets as soon as they come out. My profile has remained largely the same, my age has changed with the years and my photograph has been updated a few times.
I started wondering last weekend (25th Feb 2012) what kind of responses someone would get if their profile said that they were HIV+. So I created myself a second profile on Grindr, almost identical to mine in (but different enough to look like a different person), still looking for “Friends, fun and dates” – but this time I mentioned my HIV status in the profile text.
Over the course of the week (25 Feb – 03 Mar) my existing profile received messages from 74 users. On the other hand my (almost identical) profile that mentions my HIV status had 11 people message it. Four of those eleven messaged purely to ask me questions about HIV and one felt it necessary to send me foul mouthed abuse for seemingly no reason. Which leaves me with six people actually showing an interest in me.
Let’s look at that for a second shall we? That’s a 92% reduction in interest purely by mentioning my HIV status. It was this realisation that led to a few miserable tweets on Saturday night, sorry if you had to put up with those. I thought we were really making progress. The more things change eh?
Like a lot of single people of my generation, especially gay men, I use the Internet to meet other single people for dates. It fits in well with my busy life. A message here, a chat there, and once in a while it’ll turn into a drink or a meal.
There’s a dizzying array of jargon out there in the online dating world: GWM, GAM, GSOH, WLTM, LTR and VWE to name just a few. A couple that have recently entered my consciousness are DDF and “clean”.
DDF stands for ‘Drug and Disease Free’ – I resent that just because I have HIV that I should be lumped in with recreational drug takers. Drug taking is illegal and a choice, I did not choose to be HIV positive nor is it illegal.
Clean. I’ve been asked a few times lately “Are you clean?” and I’m never sure quite how to answer “Well, I had a shower this morning.” would seem a sensible reply. But apparently this is a cloaked way of asking my HIV status. So by being HIV positive this seems to infer that I’m the opposite of clean, which would be dirty.
I find both these terms inaccurate (I’m a very clean person, almost obsessively so) and offensive. I’m not stumbling through the streets with Smallpox here, killing your grandparents, nor am I lurking in some alleyway shooting drugs into my arms. I have a virus which is well managed with medication and prevented with condoms.
How about, instead of pussyfooting around the subject and ending up offending me by likening me to a plague victim or a crack-addict, you just ask me what my HIV status is? Be straight with me and I’ll be straight with you.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off for shower…
Love and respect,
Yesterday morning I awoke to a tingling on my upper lip. I sat bolt upright up in horror, and looked in my mirror. Sure enough, there it was, another coldsore – and you’ll remember that only a week or so ago I had a huge one on my bottom lip. Gutted. I tried to call my local GP (who you’ll remember I don’t have a huge fondness for), to see if they could dish out some Aciclovir to nip it in the bud, but despite calling all morning no-one answered the phone, I can only assume that they were closed, or busy laughing at patients.
Then I tried calling my HIV clinic, which isn’t exactly local, and they said that they could see me if I got there within 30 minutes. Some hair-raising driving on the boyfriend’s part and we made it – just. The doctor saw me fairly quickly and gave me another week of Aciclovir (three times a day), apparently whilst unpleasant the coldsores are a good thing, a sign that my immune system is asserting itself again. He also treated me to a Hep B booster in my left arm, I know, lucky me!
After that he took time to go through my latest blood results with me. My CD4 has risen from 332 to 381 and my Viral Load has dropped dramatically from 354 to 46 – almost ‘undetectable’! Also of note was that my Vitamin D levels are rising steadily as I take my daily supplements. I was so pleased, it gives me a real feeling that I’ve got control of the situation, I won’t be beat by HIV.
For those of you worried about starting treatment, or those of you considering starting treatment early (like I did) – DO IT. It’s the best decision I’ve made for myself in a long time. I’ve gone from a Viral Load of 79000 to a Viral Load of 46 in three months. I feel amazing. Here’s to the rest of my life…
Since I started this blog and my Twitter account a couple of months ago I have been inundated with messages, comments and tweets from people asking me questions about HIV, and whilst I’m by no means an expert I always endeavour to answer them to the best of my ability – and where I can’t I’ll refer them to one of the authoritative websites (like NAM, or THT). Some of the questions are from genuinely curious people, asking how it affects my day to day life, what treatment programme I’m on or how I’m coping with it – to name just a few.
Other questions I get asked, however, are far more worrying. Today, for example, I was asked in an email:
“How do I know if I have HIV? What are the symptoms?”.
The only way to tell whether you’re HIV+ (that means you have contracted the HIV virus) is to GET TESTED.
Yes it can be nerve-wracking going to get tested, we’ve all been there “Oh I’ll do it next week, next month, oh I’m busy then, I’ll do it next month” – putting it off and off, but all you’re doing is making it more difficult to eventually go and find out. Using modern ‘FasTEST’ testing kits you can have your results in as little as 15 minutes and no needles. Just a tiny prick on the finger and that’s it.
With early diagnosis and proper treatment you can live just as long and just as well as anyone else. I’ve received amazing care and support, both from the NHS and the THT, and I’m looking forward to living into my old age with some handsome man.
I urge everyone who reads this, who isn’t HIV+ or hasn’t been tested recently, GO AND GET TESTED THIS WEEK. Maybe you’re looking for an easy to do New Year’s Resolution? This one will take just 15 minutes of your time and could save your life, and save the lives of those you love and/or play with.
There are centres up and down the country, in big cities, little towns, gay centres, NHS centres, charity centres – you could even do it on your lunch break or on the way home from work. Use the THT Clinic Finder to find your nearest clinic and carry through on your new resolution.
Love and best wishes,