I have never known how I got HIV. I got married when I was 23, and my husband was assassinated three years later. I came to New Zealand as a refugee, and like the other refugees I had to do a health screening at the Mangere Refugee Centre. It was there that I was told that I was HIV positive. I denied it at first, and repeated the test three times, and it was still positive.

A few years ago I decided I would be open about my HIV status. When I told some of my best friends about my status, they stopped coming around, and they told me that they had to warn everyone that I had HIV. They were not seeing me as their friend, they were seeing me as a dangerous person, and that hurt. They defined me as the virus, rather than the person that they knew.

The stigma is worse than the virus.  You can live with the virus, the virus is manageable, but the stigma will kill you emotionally. I want to encourage everyone to talk about HIV; because that is the only way we can fight the stigma. 

I don’t want anyone to go through what I went through. I want people to take the time, and talk about it when they are ready. But, it is also important to talk about it too, because not everyone is judgmental, and through talking about it you can find support. The more we talk about it, the less stigma there is, and that is how we can save people.

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."