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 are people’s reactions to what they don’t know about HIV.

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."