Growing up, I’m ashamed to admit I believed all of the rumours I had heard about HIV. I thought it was a death sentence and that people only got it from careless behaviour.
My perspective completely changed one year when I was offered an HIV test by someone during who was promoting National HIV Testing Week in a supermarket. She told me that everything I’d heard about HIV wasn’t true and that actually, you can live along, healthy life with HIV. I was amazed to find out that if people living with HIV take their treatment as prescribed, they can’t pass it on to partners.
I said yes to being tested, which took them by surprised. She explained that every single person she asked, apart from me, had said no to a HIV test. I was tested using a rapid test, which was simple to use like a lateral flow test for COVID. I got my negative result in just a few minutes.
I couldn’t believe that no-one else in that supermarket was interested in taking an HIV test. Our health is not a place that we can afford to be ignorant – our community will test for other viruses and illnesses, but the fear around HIV stops many from taking a test.
When I had my first HIV test in my 20s, I was terrified for the result – but I thought to myself, ‘It’s better to know if I have HIV, because then I can do something about it'. I knew that putting off getting tested would only make things worse and could lead to health complications.
I’m proud to have my face as part of this year’s National HIV Testing Week and proactively raising awareness in my own community about the need to test. I’ve had mixed reactions from my loved ones about being involved – a friend asked me if I’m worried that people will think I have HIV. I explained to her that HIV is just like any other health condition, but this in itself shows that there is so much more work to do to make sure people know the truth about HIV.
To anyone reading this, I urge you to test. Most HIV tests comeback negative, but if it doesn’t, there’s support available to help you to process the change and medication to help you live a healthy life – that include shaving children free from HIV. But the first step is getting it done.
Order your free HIV test
Testing for HIV is now quick and easy. You can do it at home by ordering a free test kit now from startswithme.org.uk which will be posted through your door in plain packaging.
If you have any questions, you can contact Terrence Higgins Trust in confidence via 0808 802 1221 or tht.org.uk/thtdirect