james01I was diagnosed as HIV positive at the end of January 2014, following months of other blood tests to try and find out what was wrong with me. Eventually, my GP referred me to the nearest HIV centre for more tests and a confirmation of the result.

After a rapid HIV test at the clinic, the health advisor broke the news to me that it was a positive result. I was in shock: I cried. I thought that it was a death sentence, and I would end up the same way as Freddie Mercury.

But the health adviser was brilliant with me: she calmed me down, explained what being HIV positive means, and what would happen next regarding my treatment. I was then referred to the nurse specialist, who went through everything with me – filling out forms and answering any questions I had.

I had some more blood tests done to discover my viral load and cd4 count, and 2 days afterwards I had my first blood tests. The nurse specialist phoned me to say I needed to go straight back to the clinic as I had a very high viral load of 685,000 – and a cd4 count of 56. She told me that I needed to start treatment  as soon as possible, and she booked me a appointment with a consultant.

My consultant is amazing: whilst still in shock I went back to the clinic and was taken through everything I needed to know. I learned about the drugs I was going to be taking and what they do to the virus; I was told what their side-effects could be and what to watch out for … and then off I went to start the treatment.

A few days later I had my start program with the pharmacists. They told me I was resistant to one one of the drugs I was taking and that I needed to change it. I’ve been on the new combination since and it’s working really well!

At my most recent appointment with my doctor, I explained I was having problems coming to terms with what’s happened as it has all been a bit of a whirlwind. I hadn’t really had chance to take it all in, so I was referred to an occupational therapist and have so far had a couple of sessions with her. She has been helping me get my head around things and make sense of it all.

My main concern was about handing over phone numbers of previous partners for the clinic to contact them and get them in to be tested. I explained this to the OT, and in a roundabout way she kind of gave me the kick up the bum I needed to be brave enough to hand the numbers over! I was worried about repercussions from my previous partners as I thought they would be told about my diagnosis – but she explained to me that it is done in a confidential way, and that nothing about me or even who gave the clinic their number would be mentioned to them. That was a great weight off my mind and I have handed the numbers over!

Every staff member at the clinic is absolutely amazing and I cannot thank them enough for what they have done for me and getting me on the road to recovery! That’s my story so far … and now I would really like to help Saving Lives and promote the work that they do to the general public. Early and regular HIV testing is so important – I know from experience.