I was at my daughter's place, and they were smoking marijuana. I had a smoke and fell off the balcony. I wasn’t well at the time, and when I fell I landed on my head, and was taken to hospital where they diagnosed me with pneumonia. I was in hospital for over a week when they tested me for HIV.

When I first found out I was angry. It took me about half an hour to admit to myself that it was my own fault that I got HIV. I’ve had HIV for five years. I’m quite happy with who I am and what I am. 

People ask me, and I tell them that I carry HIV, and HIV lives with me, and all my family accept that. Some people stand off, but when my family is around they kiss me and hug me to let other people that they are not frightened of me. I’m still the same person; you won’t get it by touching me, or me kissing you. It takes a bit more than that. 

Stigma is worse than the virus. The virus people can handle, you learn to live with it. 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.

The only way people are going to understand HIV is by talking about it, and explaining what you have to go through to get better. I can only talk about it on an individual basis, about what I’ve gone through, I can’t talk for someone else, because not all of us experience the same symptoms.  A lot of people don’t like to be ostracized or condemned because of their HIV status.

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."