Many people don’t test for HIV because they’re scared of a positive result, they don’t think HIV affects them or they don’t think they’ve been at risk or are vulnerable to HIV.
In support of National HIV Testing Week 18-24 November 2017, Positively UK wants to remove the fear and stigma of testing for HIV.
During National HIV Testing Week we will be sharing the stories of seven people who have had the HIV test and received a positive diagnosis.
We hope this diverse range of experiences will reduce the anxiety some people may have about testing and will enable those who may test HIV positive to seek support to live well with HIV.
I would like to start my story by introducing self:
I am Arab Muslim Black HIV+ Gay guy
In the Arab and Muslim world, it’s known that if you are gay you bring shame to yourself and to your family. You will be disowned by your family, discriminated against by society and prosecuted by governments ‘in my country of origin its death penalty’.
I grew up and lived in a gulf country for more than 35 years, and that did not entitle me to citizenship or indefinite remain to stay. I had a residence visa which needed to be renewed every three years. Part of the renewal requirement is a medical check which includes an HIV test.
If the HIV result is positive, you will be deported from the country like a criminal with a big scandal and humiliation to you and to your family.
To avoid this, every time my visa was due for renewal, I come to London before hand and get tested at the Bloomsbury clinic.
June 2009 my HIV test result came positive.
All I could think of when I got the result is my family and my life back home. I was terrified and very scared. I had not time or chance to think about my health or treatment. I needed to run away, disappear and start a completely new life somewhere else.
The reasons I ran away, were the same reasons that gave me the strength to move to the UK and start a new life as asylum seeker.
I was alone in this, I had no family or friends for support. I could not tell anyone. The clinic provided me with counseling when I first got diagnosed. I attended one session then stopped. The counsellor was white British who knew nothing about Arab and Muslim culture. He wanted me to focus on myself and well being, when all I could think of at the moment and I need help with is my family and how can I run away from home.
I should have asked for or provided with someone who could relate to my background. That would have been a big help.
I started my treatment 8 month after my diagnoses. I did not apply for asylum then and I had no plan. I wanted to have access to medication and be on a treatment plan in the UK in case I end up somewhere in the world with no access to treatment. I was really stressed out with this idea, I spoke to my doctor and explained that not having treatment is causing me anxiety. He then agreed to put me in early treatment.
I had no idea how my life would be living with HIV. But I had awareness before hand from all my previous visits to the clinic. I knew the difference between HIV and AIDS, I knew there is a treatment and I knew I am not dying. That was a big help for me to move one and concentrate on what matters and problems in hand.
It was a hard and a long journey but I now live my life normally like everyone else, without thinking of being handicapped with my HIV. I could only have this healthy life and peace of mind here in London. I am lucky and fortunate to have it. I cannot imagine how my life would have been back home or in the Gulf area.
I would advise anyone who is recently diagnosed to seek help ‘if needed’ wherever it can be found. There is no shame in asking for help. Also to remember you are not dying, there is treatment and hopefully soon a cure.
I would like to end my story by introducing self:
I am Arab Muslim Black Gay guy, Healthy Undetectable and I am not infectious or risk to others