I got HIV the old-fashioned way; I had unprotected sex. It was with somebody I had known ever since I’d been living in the UAE (United Arab Emirates). We finally got together, and things were really sweet and romantic. It only took that one night. I felt scared. I felt very ashamed.

I was 48 years old, I had three children that were grown up, so it was all wrong. My children, my family and my ex-husband were all really wonderful. Other people were not so wonderful. 

The stigma is awful. I’m a single, middle-aged woman, so I’m not the person that people think is supposed to have HIV, and I do have HIV. I’m normal, I’m still romantic, I want to have a partner, so if you go on a date and you like the person and they like you, you have to tell them. So I just tell them, I don’t beat around the bush, and pretty much people run a mile immediately. And even if they don’t, I’ve had people making phone calls to other people about it. 

I used to say to people that people think I’m a weapon of mass destruction, because that’s how it feels. The way people react makes you feel like a freak. I’ve heard people say ‘that’s dirty’ or ‘disgusting’ disease, people have said, ‘you’ve got the AIDS.’ People think that you’re going to die soon, and people think that you could make them die somehow, just being around them. I find that kind of bizarre.

My message to New Zealand is that people are people. New Zealand thinks it’s Godzone, but it’s a little bit closed-minded. We needed to accept each other and love each other.

More Than HIV is a joint project between NZAF and Positive Women.

Real People

  • 👤

    Charlie

  • 📝 31, Gay, Auckland
  • "HIV isn’t a cause for shame or some dirty little secret... I firmly believe that the more honesty and frank discussion we have about HIV, the better."
  • 👤

    Judith

  • 📝 42, Straight, Hamilton
  • "You can live with the virus, but the stigma will kill you emotionally. I encourage you to talk about HIV; that is the only way we can fight the stigma."
  • 👤

    Lance

  • 📝 45, Gay, Wellington
  • "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."
  • 👤

    Gayle

  • 📝 52, Straight, Southland
  • "My message is that people are people. New Zealand thinks it’s Godzone, but it’s a little bit closed-minded. We needed to accept each other and love each other."
  • 👤

    Michael

  • 📝 63, Gay, Auckland
  • "As far as I’m concerned, I don’t have the problem – you have the problem. Because you need to learn to accept the way I am, because I’m no different, it’s just that I carry HIV."
  • 👤

    Jan

  • 📝 67, Straight, Southland
  • "I was lucky that I wasn’t treated any differently... I think that because of the way I was infected I didn’t suffer from the stigma that often goes along with an HIV infection."
  • 👤

    Shane

  • 📝 55, Straight, Northland
  • "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. "
  • 👤

    Jewel

  • 📝 39, Straight, Auckland
  • "Some of the positive stories that have come from my HIV diagnosis are that I’ve learnt who my real friends are and I’ve gotten closer to my family. I’ve also learnt to love myself."
  • 👤

    Campbell

  • 📝 24, Gay, Sydney
  • "To those who have HIV, like me: you are normal, you are loved, you matter and you are important. Together we can dust off the cobwebs of over 30 years of stigma."
  • 👤

    Twiggy

  • 📝 Female, Straight, Sister
  • "Families are forever."
  • 👤

    Rhys

  • 📝 31, Gay, Auckland
  • "No matter what, I have the support that I need to get me through anything."