Shane 55, Straight, Northland

I was living in Africa working on aeroplanes that were flying aid into the Sudan, and on one of my days off I decided to donate blood at the local hospital. Within an hour of donating the blood I found myself being treated for malaria. They later told me it wasn’t malaria. 

It wasn’t until I donated blood back in New Zealand that I was told that I was HIV positive. Tracing my steps back, it may have been because of that blood donation, or it could have been from some of my relationships I had in Africa.

I told my neighbours after being diagnosed with HIV, because I worked on a farm, and felt that they would need to know if they found me injured. I didn’t tell my family, because I didn’t want my mother to worry about something she could do nothing about. I didn’t tell my work colleagues, because I was a bus driver, and was worried about parents reacting to something they knew nothing about.

I was diagnosed quite early, so I had a very long period where there were no visible effects, and no requirement for medication. For a long time life continued as normal.

Personally, I’ve only had a few negative reactions to being HIV positive. One time a person said to a girlfriend of mine “don’t kiss my children”. Another time, after I filled out my form at the dentist I watched the receptionist and the dental assistant reading the form, pointing at it, and taking sneaky looks at me. In small town New Zealand you’re never sure who knows. I’ve applied for a few jobs that I’ve thought I was well qualified for and have not even got to the interview stage. I don’t know whether that was because I was HIV positive, but it’s always in the back of your mind. 

Most people have a 1970’s/80s perspective of HIV. I’m on one pill a day for the rest of my life, and as long as I stick to that, I expect I’ll live to 90. 

I’m not contagious, and they can’t even detect my viral load. So living with the disease is not hard. What is hard is people’s reactions to what they don’t know about HIV.

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