I’ve grown old with HIV. I don’t fear the virus any more, I horror the stigma | Michael Penn

New occasions among gay husbands in London have fallen for the first time. Were turning a corner, but theres a lot to do to bring the behaviours and awareness up to date

In December 1986 my partner, Brian, descended ill. We were investing the Christmas break at our vacation home in Suffolk. Brian spent all of Christmas Day in plot, and on Boxing Day morning I could tell he wasnt to do better. I called a doctor friend to get his opinion. He took one look at Brian and said we must take him to hospital straight away.

Anyone who contracted HIV back then, as Brian had, was almost certain to die. On crest of that, there was so much we didnt know about how the virus cultivated or how it was transmitted.

How different to today. Public Health England has reported the first signal of an culminate to the HIV epidemic in homosexual and bisexual humankinds since it began all those years ago. There has been a 32% drop in new HIV diagnoses among lesbian souls in London. This is remarkable and something I never pondered I would see in my lifetime.

As 1987 rolled around, my daily routine became to be working then straight to the hospital to hear Brian. We had regular calls from a voluntary from the Terrence Higgins Trusts chum strategy, which had been supporting parties for four years by then. Our buddy became a sidekick and a huge support to us both. It was stunning how the community rallied to help.

One day after undertaking, as usual, I went to see Brian, but “hes been” flustered hed just heard that Princess Diana was going to visit the hospital and he didnt have anything suitable to wear. He converged her the next day. She sat next to him, spoke to him and played with the teddy allows he had beside his bed.

On 28 May 1987, Brian died. He was just two months away from his 40 th birthday. It was a heartbreaking time for me, as I received my own HIV diagnosis too. Having cared for Brian in his last months, I didnt are all aware long I would live and I assumed the worst. The government had recently propelled their own national awareness campaign, Dont Die of Ignorance, featuring tombstones and iceberg, and every household had received the now infamous pamphlet. Everywhere I examined there was the idea that HIV was a death sentence.

Three years later, I was told I needed to go on medication to control the virus. At the time merely azidothymidine, known as AZT, was available. I was confused about whether I should start medicine. Id been hearing the dreadful side effects, and to be frank, I wasnt sure if it would help me or hurt me.

My mind was made up after speaking to a medical doctor in the US whose spouse had died of an Aids-related illness because they couldnt access the medication. Id been offered this dope, and it might prolong my life. I started AZT straight away, and did knowledge side effects.

But then, in 1996, my world-wide changed for ever. Combination antiretroviral care became available. It was revolutionary. It wasnt a medicine, but it permitted parties to live well with HIV, with few, or in my client no, side effects.

Today, I take merely two capsules once a day. Effective care toils by hushing the HIV virus. It is increased so much better that it can no longer be detected in the blood. We now know this also means, unbelievably, that it cant be passed on.

As medication continued to improve for those living with HIV, another game-changer came about in accordance with the arrangements of pre-exposure prophylaxis( PrEP ). This is a treatment taken by HIV-negative parties to prevent them from being infected in the first place. This highly effective dose will soon be available in Scotland on the NHS, as part of a pilot in Wales, and as a test in England.

Im likewise amazed to realize the process of improving HIV testing. An HIV test used to be a terrifying know-how followed by an agonising wait, sometimes for weeks. Today, you are able to experiment yourself and get your to be translated into hours, even in the privacy rights of your own home.

And, 20 times since his mother reached out and touched people living with HIV, including the two partners Brian, Prince Harry has picked up the mantle. He famously took a live HIV test on Facebook to show that there is nothing to be horror from knowing your status something of which I conceive Diana would have been incredibly proud.

But I worry about self-complacency. There are still 17 beings a daylight recently diagnosed with HIV in the UK. And the dropped in diagnoses has so far merely been received among gay and bisexual humen. HIV can and does alter all groups in society, so the job is not done. Every illnes we stop is not merely helps to halt the spread of HIV, but too saves parties a lifetime of stigma and discrimination. I know people whove been sacked from their activity because they have HIV, and who have been rejected by potential partners.

As a 76 -year-old, I am part of the first generation to grow old with HIV. We dont yet know what lies ahead for beings like me, but Ive even been told youre likely fitter than numerous beings younger than you, because Im having regular health MOTs and living a healthy lifestyle.

But I worry about stigma as I grow older and discover storeys about frightful medication of those with HIV in maintenance residences, with staff who have never really had to think about the virus. And although I am healthy and speak openly about my status, I have experienced stigma myself. There is still a great deal to do to delivering public the behaviours and awareness up to date with the medical reality.

Only last year, a Terrence Higgins Trust survey received information that nearly one in three Britons incorrectly believed that HIV can be transmitted by sharing toothbrushes, while one in five think that it can be transmitted by kissing. We knew this wasnt true-life back in 1987, let alone 30 years later.

HIV no longer has to prevent people living ordinary, joyous and long lives hitherto too often it does. We have the power to stop HIV transmission, but it doesnt just take medical involvements, it also takes societal change. Ive seen incredible advances in my lifetime. It wont happen overnight, but we can all do our fleck to facilitate bring an end to this epidemic once and for all.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

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