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National HIV Testing: ‘My first HIV test came back positive’

AWARENESS: Charity Nyirenda

I WAS diagnosed with HIV the first time I ever tested back in 2003,’ explains Charity. ‘I didn’t particularly know a lot about HIV and I’m ashamed to say the views I had on those living with HIV back when I was in Zambia weren’t very pleasant.

When I first moved to the UK in 1995 I was in a relationship with someone. He took what he told me were sleeping pills. My friend started to inquire about the pills and told me to ask my boyfriend about them. So when I was at my boyfriend’s house, I told my friend the name of the pills – AZT – which is when I found out that these were not sleeping pills, but were in fact his HIV medication.

A few days later I went to get an HIV test; even though I had found his HIV medication I was so confident that I was negative. I didn’t talk to him about it and I went and did the test in private.

I waited two weeks for the results. Throughout this time I still didn’t think I had contracted it – that was until the results came back positive.

The doctors tried to educate me about the next steps, but if I’m being honest it all went over my head. I was in a state of shock. I gradually started going back to the clinic to find out more information. At that time I didn’t have a mobile phone, but I was lucky enough to have access to counselling services.

I stayed with my boyfriend for two weeks after finding out my status. I refused to have sex with him and then made the decision to end the relationship. To this day I never told him why. I saw him recently and we said hello. I don’t feel anything for him; I have forgiven him and moved on.

Effective treatment means that HIV can’t be passed on, so maybe he was diagnosed while we were together, or maybe he didn’t take his treatment properly? This I’ll never know, but now I’m on effective treatment meaning that the virus is undetectable in my blood, so I can’t pass it on to anyone else.

HIV is just a condition. I wake up and take my medication every day in the morning because I know it’s important. Then after that, most days, I forget about HIV.

This National HIV Testing Week I want to encourage everyone to get tested and know their status because living without knowing isn’t helpful. I want everyone to know their status so they don’t pass it on without knowing as my ex-boyfriend did.

To find out where to test near you or order a free self-sampling test where you can a test for HIV at home visit startswithme.org.uk. You can also test at your local clinic or talk to your GP about testing.

National HIV Testing Week starts on Saturday 17 November and is run by Terrence Higgins Trust on behalf of Public Health England.

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