Oscar is one of the people featured in our National HIV Testing Week campaign 'I Test.' Oscar participated in the campaign to encourage people in Latin American communities in the UK to get tested.
What are your perceptions of HIV? Have they changed over the years?
My perception of HIV has changed a lot over the years. I used to think it was a death sentence but I’ve learned that it’s a manageable virus which has an effective treatment.
I used to think HIV was something that would never affect me – now I know how important it is to test regularly for HIV and that it is absolutely necessary if you have casual sex or feel you might have been exposed to it. However, my understanding of HIV stigma has not changed, then and now, there is still a lot of stigma.
Can you remember your first HIV test? What was it like? How did you feel?
Of course I remember, I will never forget. The feeling was a mixture of helplessness for doing something so important for the first time without much information, and a feeling of fear for the result. I remember being afraid of not knowing what would happen in case of a positive result. My result was negative, and at that moment I realized the importance of the test, not only to check my state of health but also for the health of others.
Do you have advice for someone who is nervous to test?
The key to reducing anxiety during the test is to get tested with a person you can trust, who will patiently tell you a lot about HIV prevention and treatment. Over the years I have learned that the most important thing is that the person who does the test has a deep knowledge of HIV and maintain a close relationship with health service providers, and that someone who can share their personal experience can accompany you to the test.
What’s the one thing you wish people knew about HIV?
I would like to be clear on just a couple of things – HIV should be seen just like any other illness, like diabetes for instance, and using a condom is the most effective method to prevent infection. If you don't use a condom every time you have sex, then you should get tested for HIV regularly, because the sooner you know you’re HIV positive, the better. Treatments are simple and non-intrusive, and can even be as little as just one pill a day.
Anything else you’d like to add?
I would like to thank Terrence Higgins Trust and Aymara for the extraordinary joint work they are doing with the Latin American community, their concern to reach all its members, in their own language and with clear and simple messages that everyone understands. I am very proud for having participated in the campaign, and I only hope that this inspires others to get tested if they are concerned about their sexual practices or simply about their health.