Lance 45, Gay, Wellington
I was living in Dunedin when I was diagnosed with HIV after I received a needle-stick injury while working at a dry-cleaning company. My doctor couldn't believe it was a positive result because he thought Dunedin didn't have an HIV problem.
My doctor sent me for another HIV test. When it too came back positive, I was referred to Christchurch hospital for yet more confirmatory tests.
I was eligible for an ACC bulk payment as my diagnosis was injury-related. But I didn't accept the payment because, as a gay man, I couldn't confirm whether my diagnosis was a result of the injury or engaging recently in unsafe sex.
I think I have always inflicted stigma on myself, feeling dirty because the HIV was sexually transmitted. I believe this attitude is also present in the community.
When I recently had elective surgery at a private hospital I was was labeled HIV-positive while being wheeled around the hospital. This left me feeling unclean.
There have been a couple of occasions when I've felt I'd rather life were over than having to go through the ordeal of living with HIV, being labeled and having the associated stigma.
When I came to Wellington I was introduced to Body Positive and NZAF. They've been a huge support for me and, because of that care and nurturing, I'm now on the board of Body Positive. I now have a large, positive support network.
My message to NZ is, it's time to come out of the closet about HIV. We are people living with a chronic illness, but we are normal people, worthy of love and respect. It's time to start talking about this disease.
Help us provide crucial services and support to Kiwis living with and affected by HIV.