‘I thought that HIV was a thing of the past. I thought that it didn’t happen to young people.’
George was diagnosed with HIV at a young age and although he found it difficult at first, he went on to become an incredible HIV activist, successful blogger and talented performer. Speaking now about his experience, George shares his story and talks about how he came to terms with living with HIV.
‘I was diagnosed when I was still at college. I didn’t know how to deal with it, so I went into self-destruction mode. I thought that HIV was still a thing of the past, something that happened in the eighties. I thought that it didn’t happen to young people.’
George put off going on medication until he learned about how he could become undetectable and what that would mean for his health and his well-being.
‘I had no idea what undetectable meant before I was diagnosed; I learned about it for the first time when I started medication. It can be a difficult thing to explain, a lot of people get confused about how I still have HIV even though it is undetectable in my body.’
Being undetectable is where HIV medication causes the virus in a person’s body to be suppressed to levels where it can no longer be detected. This means the person can continue to live a healthy life and not worry about passing the virus on to others.
‘It’s really reassuring to know I’m undetectable. HIV was an unwanted gift but being undetectable means I’m not infectious and I can’t transmit HIV. It means my immune system is healthy, it means I am living well, and it means I’m not putting anyone else at risk.’
George now lives a healthy and happy life and is dedicated to educating others. He got involved with the Youth Stop AIDS speaker tour and toured the country with other activists, speaking to students and parliament about his experience and how HIV is still an issue affecting many people today.
Soon afterwards, he started writing a blog where he writes about his experiences of living with HIV in the hope that it will help educate others. He continues working with many HIV and sexual health organisations and jumped at the chance of becoming an ambassador for It Starts With Me.
‘The It Starts With Me campaign is so important because of the conversations that it creates. Since I’ve been involved people have asked me questions about all sorts of things related to HIV. I’m proud to be someone that they can reach out to in order to seek advice and knowledge. Education is the key to ending the negative stigma which still surrounds HIV today. We all need to know the facts in order to get rid of the myths.’